Master the downward facing dog pose for vinyasa flows, static stretching sequences and as a dynamic move in warm ups.
The downward facing dog is one of the most well known yoga poses. Even if you’ve never stepped foot on a mat before, the chances are you’ve done the pose, or you’d at least be able to name it if you saw it.
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What are the benefits of downward facing dog?
The inversion is amazing for both bringing blood flow to the brain and opening from your heart’s centre, so it’s perfect to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. But it’s also a full body strengthening and stabilising move.
“It’s a really good stretch for your hamstrings, calves and posterior chain, as well as working on your shoulder mobility,” explains Emma Obayuvana, Strong Women ambassador. “As a byproduct it will also strengthen your arms, shoulders and legs. You will notice that if you hold downwards facing dog for a while your body will start producing a lot of heat as it works to stabilise.”
How to do a downwards facing dog
- Start in the tabletop position on the your hands and knees. You want to make sure that your wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under the knees.
- Spread your fingers nice and wide and evenly distribute the weight on your hands. Inhale there, and on your exhale tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor, pushing your pelvis and your sit bone towards the ceiling.
- Push your heels towards the floor but without locking out your knees as you lengthen and press away from the floor.
- To release, bend the elbows and knees to come back to tabletop position.
Downward facing dog alignment tips
- Keep your gaze between your legs or towards your belly button.
- Align your ears and your arms so your head isn’t sticking out and straining through the neck.
- Keep your ribs tucked in, chest pushing towards the knees.
- Engage the core, shoulders and quads at all times.
- Don’t arch through the spine.
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Downward facing dog progressions
“If you have got the hang of the posture, then work it into a flow. Do this by beginning in plank position and lifting yourself into downward facing dog,” says Emma. “To make this more dynamic for a warmup, you can then oscillate between inhaling as you hold the plank for two seconds and then exhaling into your downward dog hold for two seconds.”
You can also encourage blood flow and stretching in the downward facing dog position by pedalling your feet. This means lowering the right heel towards the floor as you come up on to the left toe and visa versa.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).