To keep your dog safe from life threatening injuries, you need to know how to correctly align your dog for the downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) pose. Downward-Facing Dog is a safe yoga pose that strengthens the muscles between the shoulder blades, opens up the chest and strengthens the hips and hamstrings. However, it is not the most comfortable pose for dogs. If your dog likes to flop around while floating in the air as much as you do, then yoga might not be the right fit for your dog.
One of the most common yoga positions is the downward facing dog pose, also known as the “downward dog.” This pose is very beneficial for the body, and is included in most yoga classes. Students can see many benefits to practicing downward facing dog in a yoga class, such as improving flexibility and strength. In this post, we will discuss some common misalignments in this pose, and share 4 tips to avoid them.
Downward-Facing Dog is a pose we practice in Yoga, but it can be difficult to align our bodies correctly. If you are practicing Downward-Facing Dog and your body is not aligned properly, you will not have the best effect from the pose. In this article, we take a look at common misalignments that we can easily avoid, and tips to help us maintain better alignment in Downward-Facing Dog.
Part of the reason for this is that there is no one right way to do things; every body is unique and there can be so many interpretations of the same pose that one person’s downward dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) can look very different from another yogi’s.
I agree with this logic because it allows anyone to find a yoga pose that truly resonates with their unique body and needs without feeling limited by a definition. So when I come across a pose that can be tweaked a bit, I use the word skew.
If you want to refine different postures in your practice, I highly recommend the free 30-day yoga challenge. You will be guided through the poses so you can correct any alignment issues.
Why alignment is important?
Yoga is not about whether a pose looks like a picture in Yoga Journal, but how the student feels about it.
If there are discrepancies, they will disrupt the comfortable and uninterrupted flow of energy in the body, and it will be difficult for the student to maintain what the Yoga Sutras call sthira sukham asanam, or stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukham) postures (asanam).
Without a sense of ease in the pose, it’s hard to imagine returning to the mat to do anything else.
Head down dog, which is one of the most well-known yoga poses, may seem simple (even boring). Perhaps this is why practitioners so often confuse this attitude; they take it for granted.
However, if you work on performing the pose with conscious alignment, the head-down dog becomes a place where you can explore more and more.
It is a difficult task to list all the pose transformations, as the number may be as infinite as the growing population of the earth. To illustrate this, I will mention some of the most common reasons I see students coming to my classes for the first time.
They may come individually, but usually they gather as a group of uninvited guests at your party. Check out these tips for grooming your dog to avoid common mistakes!
Mismatch 1: Dancing arms and legs
Your hands and feet are not centered and anchored to the ground, which can lead to tension in the wrist (see my column on wrist pain due to poor hand placement) or ankle. Similarly, the distance between your arms and legs is either too close (like when you lean forward) or too far apart (like in a hammock).
Begin with the plank pose.
Start with the Plank control – the downward dog.
In the inverted dog position, your arms and legs are about the same distance apart as in the Planck position. In the plank pose, connect your shoulders to your wrists; you can also connect the inside of your shoulders (where your arm connects to your torso) to your index or middle finger, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Your shoulders, hips and knees are on the same diagonal line. Without moving your arms or legs, move your hips back and up to perform the “downward dog” pose. Spread your fingers and toes wide apart; take as much space with your hands and feet as you want.
For the feet, press evenly on the top two corners of the foot, the bumps of the big toe and the little toe.
Opinions vary on whether your feet should be hip-width apart or against each other, but the most important point to remember is that you shouldn’t be able to see your ankles when you look between your legs.
Tilt 2: Arms and shoulders apart
When beginners put their hands and feet on the ground for the first time, it often feels rather awkward. Unlike our quadrupeds, who are used to coordinating their movements with all four legs, it is harder for humans to remember to combine four limbs.
In the downward dog stance, the shoulders may rest on the ears and the elbows extend to the sides, as if to prevent falling.
Create space in the chest and shoulders by bringing the arm bones into the shoulder sockets and bringing the shoulder blades back to the hips. Tighten your arm muscles without stretching your elbows and twist your arms outward.
It looks like you are trying to stick your thumbs forward, but your hands should not move. As you do these movements, you’ll feel your triceps compress your bones and push your elbows together, which helps to stretch your arms.
Finally, strengthen your hips to shift your arm weight and lengthen your spine. You can also practice these moves with a yoga strap over your elbows and a yoga block between your legs.
Tilt 3: Rounded or curved backrest
With a rounded back instead of an inverted V, the back bends upwards and the spine becomes shorter.
This misalignment can be a symptom of strained hip muscles, hamstrings, shoulders or certain spinal conditions such as scoliosis or kyphosis (excessive rounding of the spine). The opposite scenario occurs in hyperflexible people, when the spine is excessively bent.
Bending the knee can help
For poor students, patience and dedication are essential. You can bend your knees to shift your weight to your feet and stretch and lengthen your spine. Pull the shoulders back to create more space around the collarbone and in the shoulders.
You may need to practice this variation of the pose for a long time until your body begins to relax to work on stretching your legs while keeping a long spine.
For the ultra-flexible students, develop more strength here. Resist the tendency to let the chest hang over the arms; instead, pull the lower ribs into the body and lift the head between the arms so that the ears are parallel to the arms and the collarbones are wide.
Mismatch 4: Dog in high heels
The heels come off the ground, which may indicate a strain of the hamstring, hip flexor or calf muscles. It also means that most of your body weight rests on your wrists.
As with a hump, bending the knees to lengthen the spine can help. Keeping your feet pointed forward, twist your legs inward as if squeezing a block and squeeze your quads together as if someone were pulling you back by your hips.
When your body is warmed up, your muscles can relax enough to bring your heels closer to the ground, but without pressing down on them. Wait until your body agrees to move on. The goal is not just to put your heels on the ground, but to do so with ease and with whole body involvement.
Try applying some of these tips to a down dog! Don’t forget to practice luck, and comment below if you have any questions! There are many ways to find alignment, but in order to find proper alignment, we need to understand the four most common misalignments in downward-facing dog (often referred to as DFD). Let’s learn how to avoid these common mistakes and keep our dogs from pulling in all four directions.