Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit
Arguably the most popular pose in yoga
This is probably because it is the most frequently practised pose in most schools of yoga and therefore the most recognizable by experienced yogi and newbies alike.
There are so many different schools of thought, causing instructions to conflict. The worst part is that students get confused, discouraged, and even practice the pose in a way that could be harmful to their bodies in the long run.
Here are some tips for a more comfortable Downward Dog
The position of your feet
In Downward Dog you want to make sure that your feet are placed hip distance apart with your feet parallel to each other. Ease your heels towards the floor, don’t worry if they’re not on the floor, this takes time and is not the end goal, you will be benefiting regardless of where your heels are.
Bend your knees
Let go of the intensity and relax. If you are looking to find a bit more comfort and relaxation in your Down Dog start in puppy dog. Bending your knees so your tummy and thighs are closer, slowly straighten one leg at a time and then both legs if you don’t have a back issue. This will protect your back if there’s an issue already and will give your back a stretch without hurting. It will ease out your body gently especially if the hamstrings and back of knees are very tight.
Support your hands and wrists
I often hear people complain that their hands or wrists feel discomfort or pain in Downward Dog. To remedy this, first, make sure that your hands are placed shoulder distance apart. Next, check your fingers. Ideally, you want your middle finger pointing straight ahead with your fingers spread wide. Take a slight bend in your elbows, as this will ensure that the weight of your body is being supported properly by the muscles in your arms, rather than the bones. If you’ve made all of these adjustments and find that you need more support, try placing a folded up mat or two foam blocks under your palms to create a cushion for your wrists.
This tip has helped so many of my students over the years, it’s a real game changer.
I love to gently turn my head side to side or shake it out to encourage my neck to relax. This is a wonderful release for neck tension.
Maybe the most important thing to remember in order to make your Downward Dog as comfortable as possible is to just be. Remember that this is your practice. While all of the instructions from your teacher are important, the most important is that you are enjoying yourself. So to make your Down Dog comfortable and let all of the clutter leave your mind.
Hopefully, once you find comfort in your body, your mind will follow. As with every pose in yoga, it is important to remember that each body is different. What may be comfortable for one person can be uncomfortable for another.
I hope you will find these tips helpful and will experiment to find the adjustments that make your unique body comfortable and cosy in Downward Dog.