The Anatomy of Arm Support Poses: Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Arm support poses are naturally a challenge due to the fact that, unlike feet, hands are not structurally made for bearing weight. It is recommended that beginners first practice and get a hold of standing poses before undertaking arm support positions. Remember to wear leggings, yoga pants or workout clothes that will allow you to freely move your body without interruptions.

Adho Mukha

Svanasana (ah-do moo-kah shvah-nahs-anna) is one of the most popular yoga poses. This beginner to intermediate position makes one’s arms and legs work together against gravity, while lengthening both limbs in addition to the spine.

A perfect downward-facing dog pose should look similar to a triangle. One’s hands must be spread wide. One’s head must be kept in between the arms with the shoulders actively pressing down and back along with a straight spine. The tailbone must constantly be engaged, pushing upwards and backwards. When it comes to the knees, it is recommended that beginners keep them bent until their hamstrings loosen up. This will avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on the practitioner’s back. For people with flexible hamstrings, however, it is suggested that they keep their knees straight.

Some cues to keep into account are the following:

  • Keep your hands shoulder distance apart.
  • Keep your feet sit-bone to hip distance apart.
  • Allow your neck and head to follow the line of your spine.
  • Involve your lower belly by drawing the navel in towards the spine.
  • Keep your legs straight without altering the positions of your spine and pelvis.

It is important to keep these tips in mind when going into a downward dog position, as they make up the basis of this position and will help avoid any possible injuries.

In order to gain the flexibility needed to carry out the pose, some techniques that can be used prior to doing a full downward dog position are puppy dog or the use of yoga blocks. With puppy dog, one can use the wall to go into what could be called a “standing” downward dog position, which will allow you to elongate your spine in a similar way. The blocks, on the other hand, will help you in extending out your shoulders and transferring weight from your arms to your legs.

Once you have prepared your body and gained more flexibility you can go ahead into full downward-facing dog pose. Examples of preceding poses are plank pose or Phalakasana and standing forward bend position or Uttanasana. Succeeding poses can either include standing forward bend once again or standing poses.

Most benefits surrounding this yoga pose are closely related to the rebalancing of the sixth, Ajna, chakra. This is the energy center of our intuition or sixth sense as well as our inner knowledgeable guide. Amongst these benefits, one can find that this position aids in relieving stress, headaches, insomnia, sinusitis, and fatigue. It is also said to alleviate menstrual discomfort, to promote digestion and energize your entire body.

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