The benefits of Downward Facing Dog pose

Yoga is a wellness practice that strengthens the mind, body, and spirit.  There are many different yoga postures and styles. The  Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Much Svanasana in Sanskrit) is one of the most famous yoga pose and it has many benefits.

I include the Downward Facing Dog in most of my classes.  Therefore, it is important to perform this pose correctly (i.e., to go into the pose, stay in the pose and come out of the pose with awareness and control).  We want to avoid injuries but also to make it as effective and as comfortable as possible.  

What are the benefits of the Downward Facing Dog pose?

  • Stretches the whole body, the hamstrings, calves, and ankles.  It also stretches the spine, sides of the trunk, lengthens the front of the body and allows the back to be straight.
  • Strengthens the upper body (shoulders and arms), the ankles and tones the legs.
  • Stimulates blood flow (into the head as it is an inversion).  The flow of blood to the brain calms the nervous system, improves the memory and concentration, and is a great stress reliever. See Contraindication later.
  • Improves posture and helps with balance.
  • Fine-tunes your foot muscles.
  • Eliminates stiffness in neck and in upper body.
  • For runners it is also a great exercise to do after a long run.

Downward Facing Dog can be practiced as a restorative pose by resting the forehead or crown of the head on a bolster, block or folded blankets.  This way it helps with the management of headache, insomnia and mild depression.

When practiced regularly, Downward Facing Dog can also improve the digestion, relieve back pain, and help prevent osteoporosis.

How to practice the Downward Facing Dog pose?

  • Stand tall in the Mountain pose.
  • Exhale, bend forward from the hips (bend the knees if you need to) and bring your hands onto the mat, as wide as your shoulders. Spread your fingers, have weight in your palms.
  • On an exhalation step back with one leg then with the other, keeping the feet approx. hip width apart.  Do not worry if your heels do not touch the mat.
  • Pull your inner arms up, move your torso towards your thighs.
  • Lengthen the neck and release the head.  For some very experience people, the head might touch the floor.
  • Work the legs by pulling up the kneecaps and quadriceps.
  • Hold the pose for 20 seconds (say 5 cycles of your breath) or longer if you are more experienced, up to 1 minute.   
  • As noted earlier you can practice Downward Facing Dog with head supported
  • Coming out of the pose: inhale look up, step forward one leg at a time. On inhalation come up to standing.  Stay in standing to allow for your

Although practiced so often, the Downward Facing Dog is often not carried out correctly as it is more complex than it may look. There is a lot to think about in this pose.

Counter-indicators and alternatives:

If you have high blood pressure, which is not controlled by medication, do not do this pose.  Support the head on a bolster or block or do the Half Uttanasana (stand facing the wall, hands are on the wall, in line with your shoulders. Step back with until your feet are under your hips.  Work the legs.

The photos are:

Eve Grzybowski, (teacher of the teachers) demonstrates the pose

Friends’ dog is posing, Yggi

Navigating change

Change is inevitable, think of change of the seasons and tides – not the mention the adjustments we all had to make due to Covid-19.

Sometimes change is forced upon us and sometimes we initiate it. 

Both are equally scary and can bring up core survival fears, which can surface in many ways: health issues, nightmares, escapist behaviour such as overeating, indecision or to leap out of the situation without a plan, just to get the whole thing over with.

How can yoga help us in navigating change?

The philosophy (bible) of yoga was first written down more than 2,500 years ago by Patanjali.  It is called ‘Yoga Sutras’ and it contains 196 succulent aphorisms and covers all aspect of life and guides the yogi through the eight limbs (or stages) of practice.

In Chapter 1 the 2nd phrase states: ‘Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness’ or the aim of yoga is to calm the mind, to stop the fluctuations of the mind.

Yoga in its widest sense – can give us the strength and insight we need to navigate change.  The skills we learn in our poses (strength, flexibility, stamina and practicing within our limits) are useful tools off the mat.

Below are some steps which might help you:

  1. View the change as an initiation.  Think back to situations where you managed the change and learnt from it, maybe you came out stronger.
  2. The more you can be present with uncertainty the more you can let the change process take place.
  3. Self-inquiry is the core yogic process for navigating change.  Consider what would be the best outcome for all concerned.  Write it down and analyze.
  4. Set your intention (sankalpa), an affirmative statement about what you intend to do to achieve the best outcome.  Some call this goal setting. Consider the pros and cons.
  5. Take action, one step at a time so you avoid feeling overwhelmed.  The very heart of yoga practice is steady effort.
  6. Practice letting go.  Let yourself grieve the losses or allow yourself to feel anxious.  Use every exhalation as a way to letting go of what you do not need.
  7. Visualize the positive outcome of the change and how you will feel about it.
  8. Combine stronger yoga practice with restorative poses.
  9. Keep a routine of getting up and going to bed, eating regular meals and enjoy sunshine. Walking barefoot is good for grounding and strengthens the muscles of your feet, walk on sand or grass.

I stress out easily but regular yoga practice over 30 years helped me with the management of change and keeping the associated anxiety at bay.

Try one of these restorative poses. I do the ‘legs resting on a chair’ before going to bed at night.

Good luck with managing the next change in your life!

Incontinence

This blog is an extension on the last one, which was about the ‘Prolapse of a Pelvic Floor Organ’ https://tranquability.com/2021/02/17/prolapse-of-a-pelvic-organ-female/.  These topics are usually not discussed at the dinner table but they are common, 1 in 4 Australians are incontinent.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence describes any accidental or involuntary loss of: urine (wee) from the or faeces (poo) or flatus (wind) from the bowel.

Incontinence can range in severity from a small leak to complete loss of bladder or bowel control.  It can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, but help is available. In many cases, urinary incontinence can be treated, better managed and even cured. Continue reading “Incontinence”

Prolapse of a Pelvic Floor Organ

What is prolapse?

Prolapse is a term to describe the falling out of place of an internal organ or body part, and it is used mainly for prolapse of pelvic organs.  For women the the major pelvic organs include the bladder, bowel, vagina and uterus.

According to the Continence Foundation of Australia , over half of all women who have had a child have some level of prolapse. Prolapse can have a substantial effect on a woman’s quality of life and up to one in five women who have a prolapse will need to seek medical help. A lot of the women who experience this condition also leak some urine.

What caused the prolapse and what non surgical treatments are available?

Continue reading “Prolapse of a Pelvic Floor Organ”

Chair yoga – the accessible and inclusive yoga for those with injuries

Do you have an injury or recovering from injury or surgery and can’t practice standing yoga on the mat?  Chair yoga might be the answer.

Chair yoga is accessible and inclusive form of yoga.  It includes all the elements of mat yoga, it has the same energy flow and benefits.

The whole practice can be conducted in seated position.

Chair yoga is also suitable for those who’s balance is not so good or do not wish to practice on the mat or aiming to progress from chair yoga to mat practice or like to combine the two.  Office workers can also reap the benefits of this style.

Continue reading “Chair yoga – the accessible and inclusive yoga for those with injuries”

What a pain in the… back … and how to manage it!

In a world where we spend so much of our time sitting at a desk, in the car or on the couch, it’s no wonder most of us experience some kind of non-specific musculoskeletal pain at some point.  As Yoga teacher, I hear a lot of complaints of pain and in particular, chronic low back pain. Just a little note: I have over 30 years of experience in managing my own back problem.

Continue reading “What a pain in the… back … and how to manage it!”

Improve your balance – try these standing poses

 

Do you recall the moment when you almost tripped on slightly uneven or even surface and you quickly recovered without falling?   It was your good balance and co-ordination which saved you from an injury. 

This blog is about a couple of standing poses, standing on one leg.  Regular practice of these will improve your balance, will strengthen your legs and ankles.  Continue reading “Improve your balance – try these standing poses”