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YOGA POSE OF THE WEEK: DOWNWARD FACING DOG

Alis Atagan is one of our resident yoga teachers. Her classes include Sunrise Yoga on a Monday at 7.30am and Restorative Flow Yoga on a Wednesday at 12noon. Alis believes yoga is for everybody. It has had a profound impact on her, helping her through difficult times and has helped her learn to love her body. Her classes focus on learning how to soften into feeling.

Here Alis gives us insight into a mainstay pose in yoga ~ Downward Facing Dog.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG

“Adho Mukha Svanasana, translated as Downward Facing Dog, regularly shortened to Down Dog is a frequent visitor in the yoga class, so it’s worth getting to know!”

Alis Atigan

Downward Facing Dog forms part of Sun Salutation A, B and Classical. It is also used in a Vinyasa or Hatha class as a way of transitioning from one side to the other. For example, we might do one or a series of poses on one leg, then return to Downward Facing Dog, before doing the same postures on the other leg. It is held for anywhere between one to five breaths. It is a posture we come back to throughout the whole practice.

The Benefits Of The Pose

  • Downward Facing Dog stretches the posterior chain of the body, lengthening the hamstrings, calves, hips and back muscles. This pose helps develop strength and cultivate awareness in the arms, shoulders and chest.
  • Downward Facing Dog gently tones the abdominals, because there is a light lifting of the abdominals towards the spine.
  • This is very basic inversion, and great for all levels including beginners. Having the head below the heart will bring blood flow to the brain.
  • This posture can increase energy, and help to bring clarity and focus. When the neck is fully relaxed it will release tension from the neck.

Accessing the posture

The starting position for this posture might be from a table-top position or from the belly after doing cobra pose. For beginners a good place to set up for Downward Facing Dog is the Table Top pose (on your hands and knees with a flat back).

Start by placing the hands shoulder distance apart, middle or index finger points forward. Spread all ten fingers wide, press into the thumb and index finger knuckle. Ensure your weight doesn’t fall into the pinkie edge of the hand. Curl the toes under and lift knees from the floor.

Feet are hip width apart, and toes are not turning out. When hamstrings, or calves are tight, and causing a restriction, bend the knees. This will allow optimal lengthening for the spine, take the weight out of the shoulders and stop the lower back from rounding. Over time the hamstrings will lengthen.

Forearms have a mild internal rotation to help bring attention to the thumb and index finger, and the upper arms are externally rotating. As the upper arms and shoulders are externally rotating it frees up space in the neck and shoulders. This activates and strengthens the teres minor and infraspinatus muscles (two of the four rotator cuff muscles). Line up the back of the skull with sacrum, this means that the head is not lifting, nor is the head reaching back towards the legs. This will keep the neck from straining.

While reaching out through the fingers, lengthen the rib cage away from the shoulders to decrease the weight in the hands and wrists. Knit the front ribs together, and lightly draw the abdominal muscles in.

On first encounter Downward Facing Dog will feel challenging. Over time though it becomes a wonderful place to pause and come back to stillness, and grounding.

Wellbeing at Restoration Yard

Our open studio space in The Wellbeing Lab sits in the eaves of our gorgeous stableyard, with views out to the beautiful nature surrounding us in Dalkeith Country Park. It usually plays host to our varied programme of classes, which all have a focus on health through wellness of spirit, mind and body. Enjoy yoga, Pilates, mindfulness and baby sensory classes as well as one-off wellbeing workshops. During the Covid-19 outbreak we are currently offering a programme of online yoga, mindfulness and fitness classes via Zoom! These classes are easily accessible through your home device with our teachers’ expert instruction and guidance. Take a look at our current Wellbeing Timetable.