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Get Your Daily Dose of Downward Dog

downward dog

When you think about yoga poses, the classic shape of Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) most likely comes to mind. The body resembles an inverted “V” with hands and feet planted on the mat and hips lifted high. Often called Down Dog, this pose offers a myriad of health benefits for both the mind and body. Here are five great reasons to “get down, dog” daily!

1. Stretches the entire back body

We often think about our legs and our back as two separate components, when in fact they are interconnected and considered parts of the back body. The back body runs from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head. By lengthening the spine, Downward Dog stretches the hamstrings, hips, low back, and calves.

Pro Tip: Bend your knees in Downward Dog to take the stretch deeper into the low back and open up space in the back body. This modification is also beneficial for those with tight hamstrings.

2. Builds key arm strength

Downward Dog is known to act as a resting pose. As a beginner, it may feel sensational in your arms, especially when holding the pose for an extended period of time. While you can relieve pressure by coming down to your knees or taking Child’s pose, holding this posture longer will build key arm strength. That strength will help you in Chaturanga, arm balances, and more.

Pro Tip: Don’t dump all of your weight into your arms and shoulders; it can cause more harm than good.

3. An inversion without the danger

Downward Dog is a low-grade inversion. The term inversion is used when a yoga pose allows the heart to be higher than the head. This pose brings the benefits of an inversion without the risk of falling that can come with poses like Handstand or Shoulderstand. Not only does this pose provide stress relief but it also helps in increasing circulation to your brain and calming the nervous system.

Pro Tip: Get your head lower through the forearm variation of Downward Dog, also known as Dolphin pose.

4. Allows you to tune into your breath

Being attuned to your pranayama, or breath control, is an essential part of the yoga practice. Downward Dog gives you space to connect with your breathing. The inverted “V” shape allows you to feel the rise and fall of your chest, making breath a primary focus. It relaxes the chest, traps, jaw, and forehead to let the breath flow in and out smoothly.

Pro Tip: Use Ujjayi breath by inhaling and exhaling through the nose while constricting the throat. Imagine that you are fogging a mirror with your exhalations. This ancient pranayama technique is calming and focusing.

5. Reverses the slouch

Sitting at a desk all day, as many of us do, encourages weak chest muscles, shoulders rolled forward, and a hunched posture. In Downward Dog, the upper arms are rolled up and out. This action moves your body in the other direction, allowing your shoulders and chest to open.

Pro Tip: Move your shoulders down and back, lift up the hips, and draw the navel in. Then firm up the front of the legs and roll your biceps away from your ears.

Thankfully Downward Dog is used in almost every yoga style. And these are just a few of its many versatile benefits! Add this move to your daily routine and feel the lengthening, strengthening, and relaxing benefits of this fantastic pose.

Amy Dannheim
A creative leader in the Miami yoga community, Amy Dannheim is passionate about yoga, plant-based recipes and healthy living. With her degree in journalism from the University of Florida, Amy is a yoga writer and blogger as well as the co-host for Radio 1Om8, a weekly live yoga radio show. After years of working with lululemon, Amy established herself as the go-to person for yoga consulting in Miami, with her finger on the pulse of the yoga community. When she’s not strategizing or cooking, Amy teaches dynamic vinyasa yoga classes that are layered with hip-hop and spirituality, drawing inspiration from her frequent travels. Amy sits on the Green Monkey Yoga teacher training faculty and leads regular workshops and innovative events throughout South Florida. Amy is also a VitaCoco and Funky Yoga ambassador and has appeared on the pages of Wall Street Journal, on lululemon.com and shape.com. She lives in Miami Beach with her husband and fellow yogi, Mike, where they run their bike centric community & clothing company Purdy Ave. Follow her blog at www.miamyyoga.com or find her adventures on Instagram @miamy.
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