Yoga Alignment: Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana
This posture increases blood supply to the brain, improving function of the pituitary gland, eyes, ears and nose. The diaphragm moves up massaging the heart and improving its efficiency. It stretches the legs and calf muscles, in addition to strengthening the neck, shoulders and arms. This posture can improve kidney function and helps to improve memory and overall brain function. And overall it’s a great posture to energise the body.
This is perhaps the most common posture you will get in a Vinyasa Flow class, everything comes back to the Downward Facing Dog. It’s almost like a resting posture in between sequences. Although for a beginner it might feel like a great effort, with time and practice you will learn how to better distribute your body weight and take full pleasure in resting in this posture opposed to resting in childs pose.
The most important thing in your Downward Facing Dog is to keep your spine straight, if you have tight hamstrings this might feel like a struggle, but I will show you some variations below that will help you compensate for that. To make sure your spine is straight try to point your tailbone towards the ceiling and push the ground away from yourself. Often I see people compensating for their tight hamstrings by curving the spine like the picture below and that’s a NO NO. Make sure also that your fingers are spread out on the mat giving support to your wrists, middle finger pointing slightly outwards to give you more space in the shoulder area.
On the other hand I also see a lot of hyper mobile yogis completely collapsing on their shoulders and flaring their ribs like the picture below and that’s also a definite NO, we need to engage our whole core to bring stability to our shoulders.
The below picture shows you a very accessible variation for tight hamstrings, gently bend the knees and push your hips back a little, trying to point the tailbone up to the ceiling rather than tucking it in between your legs.
If that’s not enough you can bend the knees a bit more, otherwise you can use the help of blocks like in the picture below, but if you’re in a Vinyasa Flow class that’s almost impossible. Although this is a good practice for your alignment and slowly your hamstrings will loosen up with practice.
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