Making the Most of your Downward Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog, is for sure one of the most recognised yoga poses that there is.

It is great for climbers in many ways as it helps to build up upper body strength (arms, shoulders and lats), shoulder stability and flexibility, stretching your hamstrings, calves and spine. As the hips are higher than your heart in this pose, Downward Facing Dog is also considered an inversion, which benefits circulation and boosts your energy levels.

Getting into the pose:

  • Start in a tabletop position, hands under the shoulders and shoulder-width  distance, knees under the hips, hip-width apart. Spread your fingers and have your wrist creases in line with the front edge of your mat.

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  • Tuck in your toes and lift your hips up, so you are in an inverted V shape.
  • Now adjust your alignment! Start by checking your hands. Are your fingers still spread out? Can you keep a firm grip with your hands and fingers, pressing them down on your mat? Are your wrists parallel with the front edge of your mat? Now rotate your forearms inwards whilst your upper arms and shoulders rotate outwards.

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  • Keep the shoulders away from the ears and the head relaxed (but not floppy!).
  • Now, with bent knees, push down on the mat, like you’re trying to push it away from you, lifting your tail bone back and up towards the ceiling. Bring your navel towards your spine and sternum towards your upper back.

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  • Keep the extension on your spine, then lift on your tail bone as your bring the heels down towards the floor, extending the back of your legs. Please note that your heels don’t have to be touching the floor here as the extension on the spine is far more important than that!

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  • Keep your feet parallel to each other and hip-width apart. Or wider even, if it feels easier!
  • Stay here for around 5 breaths. Soften the face and bring your awareness to what you are doing. It helps revisiting the alignment points in your head, scanning your body and checking if you haven’t lost the shape somewhere.

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  • To come out, simply bring your knees down to the floor and rest in child’s pose.

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