DOWNWARD-FACING DOG (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)


Contra-indications: Sciatica - don't straighten the knees. High blood pressure or headache - support the head on a bolster or block, with ears level between the arms.

How to perform: Begin on the hands and knees with the hips directly on top of the knees and the shoulders on top of the wrists, then move the hands one hand length forward. Spread the palms, middle fingers parallel, and turn the toes under. Exhale and lift the hips up and back, pressing the chest towards the knees until the arms are in line with the torso. To broaden the shoulders press the base of the index fingers actively into the floor and try pressing your forearms towards each other and simultaneously pushing the upper arms away from each other. Keeping the knees slightly bent lengthen through the arms and spine creating a straight line of energy from the wrists to the pelvis. Then keeping the back long, straighten the knees by firming the thighs but be sure not to lock them. The weight should be evenly distributed between the hands and heels. The heels will not touch the floor but work to bring the heels further down. Hold 6-12 breaths then bend the knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Balasana.

Do not bring the hands closer to the feet in order to ground the heels to the floor - the back will tend to round.

Do keep the head between the upper arms - don't let it hang. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the pelvis in neutral position and the spine naturally curved.

What if... my back gets rounded when I straighten my knees? Keep the knees bent and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, constantly extending through the spine.

Benefits: Deeply stretches the back, opens the chest, and builds upper body strength. Improves blood circulation to the heart and the brain. Stimulates the liver and kidneys. Encourages blood flow to the sinuses, ultimately helping to ease congestion. Prevents complications of secondary infections by draining the lungs. Energizes the body and at the same time calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and depression.

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