One of the most common asanas, or yoga postures, is the Downward-Facing Dog. The original Sanskrit name for this position is Adho mukha śvānāsana. It comes from 4 words: adhas meaning “down”, mukha meaning “face”, śvāna meaning “dog”, and āsana meaning “seat” or “posture”. The primary muscles that this posture works are the back and shoulders, triceps, buttocks, and hamstring. To get into the Downward-Dog pose properly, you should begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders, with your fingers spread apart, flat on the ground. Your knees should be lined up under your hips, and your back should be straight. As you exhale deeply, push your hips up towards the ceiling, so that your body forms an upside-down letter “V”. You should keep the palms of your hands flat on the floor, and hold your arms straight, lining them up with your ears. Your back should be straight and your shoulders relaxed. Ideally, you should have your knees straight and the soles of your feet flat on the ground. But for this position it is more important that your spine remain straight, so you may bend your knees slightly if it’s necessary. Breathe in and out steadily while holding the Downward-Facing Dog pose, and then gently bring your body back down to your hands and knees on an exhale. Some of the benefits of the Downward-Facing Dog are:
- Building strength in the arms, feet and legs.
- Stretching the legs, shoulders and spine.
- Reducing fatigue.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Increasing blood flow to the head and sinuses.
- Calming the mind.
It is best to practice the Downward-Dog posture on an empty stomach, and while wearing comfortable yoga clothing to allow ease of movement.