My yoga mentor says, with a touch of humor and sass, that “it’s not a real class until you do downward facing dog”. Funny, and somewhat true, because downward facing dog is THE iconic yoga pose people know. Even if they know absolutely nothing else about yoga. It’s sad then that it gets severely butchered by so many. So let’s look at how to do the pose, followed by 5 tips for downward facing dog.
How to perform downward facing dog
Start on hands and knees. Draw the navel to the spine, spread the weight into the thumb and index finger edge of the hands, tuck the toes and lift the hips. Sending the body into an inverted “V” shape. The head stays in line with the spine. Arms are straight, legs and arms are lightly active in an inwards direction.
Tips for downward facing dog
You can see a video below on how to perform the pose, plus tips for downward facing dog featured in this post. We all learn differently and if a photo is worth a thousand words then a video has to be worth a 100 photo’s right? Also remember to like, comment, share and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more good karma content!
Downward Dog Too Short
One of the biggest tips for downward facing dog would be to lengthen your dog. Most people seem to be super short in their stance, needing more distance between the hands and the feet. Typically plank or chatturanga follow downward facing dog and a too short dog can cause wrist issues coming into plank.
Lengthening through from front to back allows more ease in the pose. Plus you’ll be able to seamlessly transition to plank without causing a ton of wrist pain
Heels don’t touch the floor
For some reason in yoga people get obsessed with touching the floor. At all costs. I suggest if your feet don’t reach the floor in downward facing dog, then let the heels be lifted. And be ok with that. It could be lack of flexibility in the back of the legs (calves), it could also just be your bodies structure. Stop forcing it. Instead embrace where you are today.
By far the thing I get requested most, and something I want to address in a future post, is how to fix tight hamstrings. If in downward facing dog you have a screaming sensation happening in the back of the thighs (and possibly up into the buttocks) then say hello to your hamstrings. The problem with forcing the hamstrings to stretch is that it doesn’t help. Instead slightly bend the knees and be kind to your body. Instead fix whatever you’re doing to cause the tight hamstrings in the first place. Hint: it’s probably too much sitting!
Back too rounded
This is generally a problem I see with men, but also a few women. Lack of flexion at the hip. Instead they try to make the hinge happen at the lower back. This causes all kinds of ugly and typically feels tight through the back body. Instead think about bending or hinging from the hip, the crease of your bikini line, and lifting from there. Sometimes it could be lack of awareness of the hip joint movement, so I suggest checking out this post. The previous cues to lift the heels, and bend the knees can help also. Sometimes this can be due to poor shoulder mobility, but that deserves a post all on its own.
Arms too bendy
Yoga does seem to attract bendy people who ironically need less stretching and more strength. This flexibility can often be seen in downward dog as super bendy arms. They almost scoop and dip down to the floor with just their arms or shoulders. Less is more for these people. Think about a long straight line from the tailbone to the crown of the head and out through the arms. It’s not a curved line! The tip here is to slightly bend the elbow and back OUT of the pose a little. Do less, to get more strength and stability.
- What issues do you have, or do you see in downward facing dog?
- Do you have any other questions about downward facing dog?
- Are there any other poses you’d like tips for?