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Asana of the Month: 01
Adho Mukha Svanasana ~ Downward Facing Dog Pose

DOWN DOG If you had to limit your yoga practice to just one pose, down dog would be a great choice. It's absolutely my favorite. Down dog strengthens the arms and legs, opens the hips and shoulders, stretches the entire back of the body and gives you a mild inversion, since the head is below the heart. Because it distributes the weight evenly though all four limbs, the pose feels very balanced and solid. That's amplified by the fact that the heart chakra, at the base of the breastbone and in the middle of the chakra pole, is the energetic center for this pose. There's something about facing down toward the earth that's also very centering, and I find this pose both calms and energizes me. It's no wonder that down dog is both an integral part of the Iyengar restorative series and the Ashtanga flow series - where it's done more than 50 times!

Images by Nancy Van Kanegan
senior teacher at the Chicago Yoga Center
No use without written permission

Practice Tips:

So here's one way to enjoy this wonderful asana, based on John Friend's Anusara Yoga Universal Principles of Alignment.

Come to your hands and knees. Bring the wrists under the shoulders, with the creases of the wrists parallel. Spread the fingers wide and root the finger tips, base or ball mount of the fingers, and the heels of the hands into the mat.

Hug the muscles of the hands and arms to the bones and draw the muscular energy up the arms and into the heart chakra at the base of the sternum, drawing the shoulder blades together on the back and rolling the shoulders up and back. From the heart center, shoot the organic energy back through the bones, expanding them and stretching them down to anchor the hands, especially the ball mounts of the index fingers. Keep a tiny "2 micron" bend in the elbows so the "eyes" of the inner elbows look at each other rather than foward.

Lift the ribs and kidneys up and stretch the tailbone back and in so the lower back does not sag, but instead the spine stretches evenly on both front and back sides. Draw the armpits onto the rib cage and broaden across the collar bones.

With the feet hips width, take the knees back 2 inches, curl the toes, and lift the knees. First stretch the sitting bones as far away from the hands as possible, while continuing to roll the shoulders back away from the ears and towards the hips. Lift and spread the toes, straighten and energize the legs by hugging the muscles to the bones, and draw the muscular energy from the soles of the feet up the legs to the pelvis and then to the bottom of the heart. Draw the groins and inner thighs back, root the tail bone in, then shoot organic energy from the heart center through the bones, taking the sitting bones back and up and the heels back and down.

Lengthen out through the neck and top of the head. Keep lifting the front of the body up into the back of the body as you bring the spine more into the body. Resist the top of the shins slightly forward to not hyperextend the knees and take the thigh bones back and up. Press into the ball mounts of the big toes and the outer heels. Work with the breath. As you inhale pull the muscular energy up and into the heart center. As you exhale, shoot the organic energy through the bones, infinitely stretching in two directions from your heart center.

After 5-8 breaths, on an inhale bend the knees and drop them to the mat, on the exhale flatten the tops of the feet and rock back into child's pose, sitting bones sinking toward or into the heels, forehead resting on crossed hands or on the mat with the arms relaxed forward, alongside the head, or with palms up by the heels. Rest and enjoy the breath.

Text by Tim Noworyta
senior teacher at the
Chicago Yoga Center

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