"Bringing the head lower than the heart encourages blood flow to the brain which can have both an energising and calming effect. "
- Laura McDondald
Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of Yoga’s most recognised poses and most students of yoga will have encountered it at some point during their practice. It is often practised as part of a sun salutation or as a transition during a yoga flow where one pose leads into the next.
An easy place to start is to come into a table top position on your hands and knees. Hands shoulder width apart and knees hip-width apart. From here you can practice spreading your fingers wide and pressing the finger pads into the mat.
On an exhale breath, tuck the toes under, press down through the hands and lift the hips up to come into the upside-down V shape of the pose.
Don’t worry if the legs are not straight, especially in the beginning. It’s more important to find length in the spine. Also, don’t worry if the heels don’t reach the ground.
Draw the lower belly in towards the spine. Activate the thigh muscles. Roll the biceps away from the ears for muscular engagement through the arms. Allow the neck to relax. (I find that some teachers instruct to keep the head in line with the arms, others say to let the head hang - my advice would be to find the alignment that works best for you)
Hold for five full breaths.
Excellent stretching and lengthening of the backs of the legs and spine, this could be good news for sciatica sufferers as it can relieve tension that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Building both strength and flexibility, targeting both the upper and lower body.
Because it is a weight-bearing exercise, it could help to build bone density, for example, the bones of the wrist.
Pulling the navel in towards the spine creates compression of the digestive organs, which could improve digestion.
Bringing the head lower than the heart encourages blood flow to the brain which can have both an energising and calming effect.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura has been practising Yoga since 2005 and qualified as a Bikram Yoga Teacher at Bikram’s Yoga College of India in Palm Desert, California in 2009.
Since then she has taught full time all over London and beyond.
More recently she travelled to Vancouver, Canada to train with Yin Yoga teachers Bernie Clark and Diana Batts and is finding that this slower paced, meditative form of yoga is an excellent compliment to the more 'Yang' style practice of Bikram Yoga.
What Laura likes most about the yoga she teaches is it’s accessibility to all body types, all ages, all shapes and sizes and all abilities. She is committed to helping people find the therapeutic benefits of a yoga practice for themselves.
Find her at the following studios :