In my very first blog post, I thought it would be fitting to offer simple alignment cues for one of hatha yoga's most common postures, downward facing dog, or adho mukha svanasana.
main priority: elongate the spine and breathe
Here is what each part of your body should be doing:
Begin in table pose (hands and knees) but have your hands an inch or two in front of your shoulders.
Spread all ten fingers and have your pointer finger roughly at 12 o' clock. Press down into the base of your pointer finger and thumb, (where the bones in the hands & wrists are larger, and can bear weight in a sustainable way over time versus the tiny little bones in the outer edge of the wrist below the pinky finger), like you were about to pinch a piece of paper off the earth.
From here wrap your upper arms away from your ears (externally rotating) so that your shoulder blades engage and peel apart (not collapse in towards each other). So the hands, arms, and shoulders are active and engaged.
Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back..
FEET, LEGS & TAILBONE
It is very common to hear "heels to the floor" in this posture, which is not a priority or even the goal here. What is important in this pose is to elongate your spine so that you feel a sense of length and decompression in the entire spinal column. To do this, bend your knees, come onto the balls of your feet, and feel your frontal hip points (the bony parts of your hips) touch the tops of the thighs, and reeeeeach your tailbone up and back. This encourages the length in the entire back but specifically in the low back. By bending your knees, the hamstrings are no longer effort-ing here, and this takes away any rounded-ness in the low back, and encourages length in the entire spine.
Take anywhere from 5 to 20 breathes here, resting in childs pose when needed, and trying it a few times.
When the spine is long and decompressed we are able to receive the full benefits of this posture, which include feeling energized, strong and connected.
These are common alignment cues meant to help you understand the energy of this posture. There are many modifications and alternatives, so if you have questions leave them in the comments below & I am happy to connect with you!