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The Whys & Hows Of Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

The Whys & Hows Of Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward dog with an Ajna Pillow energies the body and mind

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Downward dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, is arguably the most well known of all yoga asanas. Even those who have never stepped foot in a yoga studio, or onto a yoga mat, have probably heard the English name of this pose. 

Downward dog is widely performed as a staple in almost any physical yoga practice, and one of the key poses of the ritualistic Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) series. You'll find beginners all the way through to advanced yoga practitioners incorporating this asana in their practice.

While downward facing dog acts as great warm up for the whole body, it also provides a sort of "home base" to come back to throughout your practice - a place to reconnect with the breath and find stillness within.

The full expression of this pose with legs and arms fully stretched, back straight, a wide stance, and heels down, can be intimidating for some, but don't let stop you or your students from working towards it. You can still reap the benefits of the yoga pose with just a few modifications. Let's talk about how!

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Stay grounded on an Ajna Wellbeing Organic Jute Yoga Mat, made from eco friendly, nontoxic materials.

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What Are The Benefits Of Downward Facing Dog?

We're not all able to stand on our head, but downward dog is also an inversion and can provide many of the same benefits in a much gentler fashion. These benefits are:

  • Relieves fatigue

  • Calms an anxious or stressed mind

  • Is a mild anti-depressant

Add to these the more physical benefits:

  •  Builds strength through the shoulders and arms
  • Stretches all the way down the backs of the legs
  • Stretched through shoulders.

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Uttananasana (forward fold) can help to prepare your hamstrings for downward dog. Try it on an Ajnamat for added benefits!

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How Do I Prepare For Downward Facing Dog?

Practicing a few rounds of cat cow pose (Bitilasana Marjaryasana) while coordinating your breathing is a great exercise to prepare your arms, wrists, and back for downward facing dog.

You might also like to prepare the hamstrings by practicing your forward fold (uttanasana), keeping as much bend as you need through the knees to avoid taking strain in the lower back.

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@bodyflyingbc on practicing cat cow pose on her Ajna Wellbeing Jute Yoga Mat

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How To Perform Downward Dog

1. Come onto your hands and knees with your arms shoulders width apart and your legs hip distance apart.

2. Ground down through the hands and feet to send your hips up to the sky and reach your heels down toward your mat so that you make an upside down "V" with your body

3. Lengthen the backs of the legs as much as possible without locking into the knees.

4. If your lower back is rounding, deepen the bend in your knees so that your spine can lengthen.

5. Maintain activation through the arms, pressing into the mat, to avoid sinking into the shoulders.

6. Draw the belly in and gaze between your feet.

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@aliceinwondrland on her Ajna Wellbeing Organic Jute Yoga Mat

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Is there anyone who shouldn't practice Downward Dog?

If you have wrist injuries, carpal tunnel, or shoulder injuries then this pose can give you pain. You may need to find modifications or skip this pose altogether.

Downward dog is also not recommended for those in late stages of pregnancy, or with high blood pressure.

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Ajna Wellbeing's Organic Jute Yoga Mat provides the perfect high performance grip to keep you from slipping in your downward facing dog



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