The most common response I hear when I tell people that I teach yoga is, "I'm not flexible. I just can't do down dog."
My most common response: "You don't do yoga because you are flexible, you do yoga to help you become more flexible."
With this in mind, today I will offer some solutions to one of the most well known yoga poses: downward facing dog. Let's forget what you think downward dog is supposed to look like. What matters is how your body feels in the pose, and how you use the pose for your body. Downward dog works to stretch and strengthen so many parts of the body. Let's tackle some of the problems I hear often:
"Do my legs need to be straight? My hamstrings are too tight." - BEND YOUR KNEES. Yes, you can bend your knees in downward dog. It's totally fine. I often have my knees bent. Instead of focusing on lengthening your legs, focus on lengthening your spine. Focus on spreading your fingers wide, pushing away from the floor with your hands, sending your sit bones high. Focus on everything but those tight hamstrings, because you are bending your knees. If bending your knees isn't enough, try widening your feet as well.
"Do my heels need to touch the floor?" - NO. Your hamstrings or calves may not be ready, your achiles tendon may be too short, your bone structure might not allow you to. That's okay! This is not the purpose of the pose. Imagine your heels pushing for the ground, but don't worry if they're close to the ground or not.
"My wrists hurt." - MODIFY. Make sure your body weight is also pushing into your feet, not pushing all the way forward into your hands. Make sure that you are pushing into all parts of your hand including your fingers, and not all into your palm and your wrist. You want to make a slight suction cup with your hands. Otherwise, elevate your hands up onto blocks or try downward dog with your hands on a wall, pushing away from the wall, instead of the floor.
Downward facing dog was a very frustrating pose to me for a very long time, until I made the pose work for me. Face your downward dog*, make it work for you. You've got this.
*If you have issues with high blood pressure, vertigo, or any other health issue where you should avoid your head being lower than your heart, practice downward facing dog against a wall, with your head and heart level, and your hands against the wall. If you have had a shoulder injury or recovering from one, consider coming into child's pose during class when downward facing dog is called to avoid putting any body weight into your shoulder.
Always ask a yoga teacher questions. We are here to help you and your practice. If something doesn't feel right, come out of it and ask for help.
yoga, food, family, and travel. these are what drive my life! as a stay at home mom of 2 little girls with an active yoga practice. i longed to find the perfect yoga class for my own children. i felt a calling to a kids yoga teacher training in early November, 2017 and answered the call. in 2018, i felt called towards a greater mission. teaching teens & adults. today, i am living my dream.