In my 20+ years of teaching yoga, I’ve noticed that students either really like — or really dislike — doing down dog!
What about you? Is down dog a favorite pose of yours… or not?
Some people complain of pain in their wrists, elbows, shoulders, back or neck while doing Down Dog — and that’s because chances are, they are doing Down Dog in a misaligned way.
Again and again I see students straining to get their legs straight and their heels to the ground, rounding their spine and overloading their wrists in the process.
Down Dog is not meant to be a torture device!
What exactly is Down Dog and how to do it without discomfort
Down dog is an inverted “V” pose, with your hands and feet on the ground, and your hips high.
Down Dog, in my opinion, is primarily a spinal stretch.
The stretch to your legs should be of secondary importance.
Take a look at my video on this page where I give you step-by-step instructions and a demonstration that you can follow along with.
How to do Down Dog Correctly
This video clip comes from YOGA for BOARD SPORTS, which is streaming in our online series.
Don’t worry if you’ve found Down Dog uncomfortable in the past — when you try the Yoga for Surfers version, you’ll likely find it more achievable and effective than what you may have tried before.
I like to think of Down Dog like aspirin — in other words, it should help whatever’s ailing you.
Down Dog stretches the spine, strengthens the wrists and forearms, builds bone strength, stretches hamstrings and achilles tendon, develops flexibility in the ankles, and can also help relieve plantar fasciatis.
When Not to Do Down Dog
Down Dog is an “inversion”, meaning your head is below your heart.
But be cautioned: inversions are not for everyone.
In fact, since I am recovering from eye surgery, I am leaving inversions out of my yoga practice for now.
If you have been diagnosed with any eye conditions (such as glaucoma, retinal tears, macular issues etc) you should be cautious about increasing pressure in your head.
Also, if you have high blood pressure or migraines, tooth pain, any recent surgery of the head or neck — it’s best to check with your doctor about doing any exercise that raises pressure in your head.
What to Do instead of Down Dog
You can do a modified version of down dog by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of a table or counter, or place your palms agains the wall.
Then walk back a few paces until your torso is parallel to the ground, and your feet are under your hips.
Best is to have your feet hip-bone width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead.
It’s okay to bend your knees a bit if you’re feeling tightness in the hamstrings (backs of your legs).
Take care not to overly-arch your spine or let your belly droop.
Press your hips away from your hands and feel the s-t-r-e-t-c-h in your spine!
I love this variation of Down Dog.
Do it two or three times throughout your day for about 30 seconds at a time.
You will love the refreshing invigoration you experience, and there are few poses that match Down Dog in giving your spine the stretch it needs.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you!
Questions? Let me know in a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.
More Surf Yoga Tips Below…
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Avid surfer and certified yoga instructor Peggy Hall has been inspiring thousands of surfers to surf better — and live better — since 2002. Her upbeat energy, down-to-earth teaching style and positive encouragement will get you fit, focused and fearless on the waves, and in your life!
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