One of the most popular poses that you’ll practice in yoga class is Downward Facing Dog, it's a link in so many sequences and from it we jump to so many other postures and variations! Although it might look easy, as a beginner there are plenty of adjustments we can make so your pose feels and performs well.
When I first started practicing yoga regularly, I developed a lot of wrist pain, some of this I credit to my skinny little wrists but I soon realised it was because I had too much weight in my upper body during my down dog. This is often due to the backs of the legs being super tight.
Once you learn how to get into the pose properly, it can actually become extremely relaxing, a great place to take a few breaths in between a challenging sequence. Just like most inversions, Downward Dog is good for circulation, activates the lymphatic system, and can have a positive impact on mental functioning by increasing the flow of blood to the brain. Overall, it’s a great pose to practice, even if you have to start with a few simple modifications.
Here are 5 tips to help you make Downward Dog a little easier:
1. Start with wrists shoulder distance apart (or wider) and step your feet as wide as the mat. Send the weight into the legs by pressing into the base of each finger, especially the thumb and forefinger. Straighten the arms and hug the outer upper arms (triceps) in towards each other.
2. If your heels don’t touch the floor, don’t worry. To warm up the hamstrings and calves, bend the knees and alternate pressing one heel towards the floor at a time. Remember to breathe.
3. To avoid hunching in the back, lift yourself up onto both toes and bend both knees, sending the weight back into the legs. This is also a great modification if you get lower back pain.
4. Eventually step the feet hip distance apart, begin to straighten the legs and engage the quads. Again, if your heels don’t touch the floor it’s perfectly okay. Keep sending the weight up and out of the upper body and into the legs.
5. Breathe here. Relax your neck and head. And if you ever need a break, lower your knees, untuck your toes and take child’s pose.
Keep practicing. Like anything, with patience and perseverance you will see improvement.