Terre Pruitt's Blog

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More On Downward Facing Dog

Posted by terrepruitt on July 1, 2014

I once briefly wrote about the Downward Facing Dog yoga pose in my post Down Dog. This is considered a resting pose. For many; those starting out or those wanting a gentle type of workout, it is not extremely restful. There are many muscles that are being used so it is a very active pose. This pose could be qualified as a “push exercise” or using the muscles that are used for pushing. Muscles on the back of the body are considered the “push muscles”. There are many benefits to this pose.

The lower body gets the biggest stretch. If you are able to straighten your legs and place your heels on the ground the back of your legs get the stretch. The hamstrings get a good stretch along with the calves. If your heels are up there is still a nice stretch going on. With many people working in office chairs and having the posture of bent legs, tight hamstrings is a very common situation. So having heels up and bent knees is a widely used modification.

No matter how your legs are (straight or bent) your arms are holding you up. This pose does require your arms to do some work. It is considered an arm supported pose. In conjunction with latissimus dorsi, the muscles by the ribs, and your deltoids the triceps are working. So for some their arms might feel fatigued. So even though this pose is allowing for a very big stretch in the back of the legs there are muscles working on the top half of the body.

Even though the focus is in pressing the tailbone to the sky we don’t ignore the front. The front of the legs get a bit of attention, as we are lifting the knee caps.  We also have a sense of our spine lengthening.

In addition to increasing flexibility in your legs, hips, and ankles. And strengthening arms and wrist, this pose relieves depression and helps calm the mind. Additional benefits include:
-Energizing the body
-Increasing circulation
-Improving digestion
-Relieving headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
And it can be therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

I have learned to like this pose a bit more. I was reminded of what I tell my students and what we practice in Nia. Find the Joy in the movement, if you cannot tweak it until you do. I believe a portion of my dislike of this pose back when I first wrote about it, was that I was forcing it.  I was doing it in away that did not feel good for my back. Once I stopped the complete loose action of my spine, the pose became more comfortable. As it became easier there was room to move into the pose better and relax into it.

So, like many things it is good to do it at your level. As you improve it can be done better. The benefits can be received throughout the practice. It is a practice.

How is your Downward Facing Dog?

6 Responses to “More On Downward Facing Dog”

  1. Thanks for posting in detail the exercise that helps us in a very positive way. In our busy lives we need to relax and sleep well and this exercise seems to be beneficial in every way. I will try it for sure. Thanks for the lovely post my friend. Take care and God bless.


  2. niachick said

    Downward Dog is my FAVORITE Yoga pose. FAVORITE. I could stay in Down Dog for days. I love going from Dog/Cat (or Cat/Cow as some in yoga call it) to Down Dog to Plank to Cobra. Love this post!!!


    • Jill,

      I like it more now that I am not allowing my back bone to be so loose. 🙂 I do find it fascinating that it is a “resting” pose. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Betty Galloway said

    I like Down Dog pose however, I do have some problems with wrist pain if I sustain it for any period of time. Particularly my right wrist which I think is due to the fact that I am on a computer all day for my work and using a mouse. I also find some of the movements done from Down Dog such as extending the leg out and up to be pretty difficult with my limited hip flexability and low back issues. Still, it does it’s job and I do it my body’s way each time. Some days are better than others!


    • Not sure your set up at work, but it could be that a little tweaking of the position of your mouse, might bring some relief to your wrist in your other tasks. I had a friend once who said her shoulder hurt her because of her mouse. When I saw how she was using it, I said, “No wonder!” For some reason her mouse was PAST the point of her normal reach so she was stressing her shoulder out in trying to maneuver the mouse. When she moved the pad and the mouse’s operation closer to her body it help her shoulder throughout her daily life/movement. Perhaps an adjustment on the computer using side will help with your yoga practice? Then there is also the bending of your knees that can help take some of the weight off of your wrist. And, as you have already stated, it tends to hurt when you sustain it . . . so just being mindful of how long you do it will help, right?! Those are my suggestions . . . . 🙂 Even though you didn’t ask! 🙂 As you said, do it your body’s way! YAY. Working towards more strength and flexibility. That is all was can do. Some days ARE better than others. 🙂

      Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment! Cheers!


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