Downward Dog and Your Yoga Journey: Working the “Resting” Pose

downward dog

If I asked a group of yogis to name the first pose that comes to mind, how many would say downward-facing dog? I haven’t taken a survey like this, but my guess is more than half—probably a lot more. It would at least be in the top three (along with child’s pose and savasana). Again, just my guess, but most yogis know downward dog (perhaps by its Sanskrit name, adho mukha svanasana). We learned it early—probably at our very first yoga class.

I was in a yoga class a while ago, where we didn’t do downward-facing dog until almost the end of class. It felt like something was missing! While I feel that way about a few poses, I can’t remember a class where we didn’t practice adho mukha svanasana!

Downward Dog is a Resting Pose, Right?

Do you remember that beginner class when your teacher told you downward dog is a resting pose? At that point, you probably wondered what that teacher was talking about! You likely did not feel as rested in downward dog as you did in child’s pose or savasana in those early classes.

How do you feel about downward dog now? Has your experience changed?

Most yogis find adho mukha svanasana challenging at first. The longer we practice, the easier it gets. Whether we ever feel at rest in the pose depends on a lot of factors. But even while we struggle with it, downward dog is a staple of yoga for a good reason.

And consider this: If you feel too comfortable in adho mukha svanasana, you may need to change the way you practice it! You’ll still need to “work your dog” to optimize its benefits.

Here Are 8 Benefits of Practicing Downward Dog

  1. It’s a full-body pose. Your arms, legs, core, shoulders, hands, and feet are all involved when you practice downward dog.
  2. It helps get your blood flowing. Since your head is below your heart in this pose, it’s especially good for oxygenating your brain.
  3. It’s great for your sinuses. If you’re an allergy-sufferer, you may find downward dog helps clear your head, so you can breathe better.
  4. The pose helps open the shoulders and engage the rotator cuff.
  5. It helps improve your posture. If you practice it well, downward dog opens the chest and helps prevent rounded shoulders, which so many of us are prone to when we work at desks or spend a lot of time texting.
  6. Since it improves posture, downward dog can also help alleviate neck and back pain.
  7. It helps you become flexible and Many yoga poses do one or the other, but downward dog is a great stretch as well as a weight-bearing pose that builds strength.
  8. It improves the connection between your feet and the ground, which is especially helpful if you’re a runner, hiker, or someone who does a lot of walking.

As you can see downward-facing dog is a good pose for warming up. It’s also a good pose for cooling down. And, it’s often practiced as a transition, especially in sun salutations and vinyasa class. And yes, downward dog is a resting pose!

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Maria Kuzmiak

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