Adapted from article by Amanda McMillan, Self Magazine.
Ask anyone with a little knowledge of yoga to name a few postures, and Downward Dog will likely be one of the first.
Downward Dog is the anchoring posture of many yoga practices today. It may be because the pose is so good for many health issues plaguing our society today: tiredness, back pain and stiffness from sitting all day.
In fact, downward dog has loads of health benefits--and whether you're an everyday yogi or not, this pose alone is worth adding to your regular fitness routine.
1. It builds bone density. Postures like Downward Dog (as well as more difficult arm balances) that place weight on the arms and shoulders are great for building upper body strength and preserving bone density. This is especially important for women as we age and become more at risk for osteoporosis.
2. It wakes you up. Downward Dog is one of the best poses you can do when you’re fatigued. At least one minute in the pose to bring back lost energy from a day on your feet or a long day in the office.
3. It eliminates stiffness and back pain. Great for people who get pain in their shoulders and upper back and practicing it with proper alignment can make your upper back more flexible and less likely to store so much tension.
4. It boosts circulation. Any pose where the heart is above the head is a good one for the circulatory system, because it encourages blood flow throughout the body. An active circulatory system helps flush toxins from our body, keep our immune system in tip-top shape, and helps regulate blood pressure.
5. It can be easily modified. Downward dog can be intimidating, difficult, or even painful to put so much weight on your arms in downward dog. If the posture’s not comfortable for you, you can always drop down into Dolphin Pose with elbows on the ground, to get many of the same benefits. (If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before attempting downward dog, as well.)
6. It’s a good check in with your body. We spend a lot of time in Downward Dog because it’s a good way to “take inventory” about how you’re feeling. It stretches your arms, legs and back all at once, and you can take notice of what feels good and what you need to work on.
Try adding Downward Dog– or better yet, an entire sun salutation – to your daily workout. To make sure you’re doing Downward Dog correctly, make sure you’re engaging through the core and drawing up through your quads–without hyperextending your knees–while reaching up and back with your hips and then down toward the earth with your heels. Don’t let your upper body collapse into itself, or your shoulders sink into your neck; your body should be in two long lines, forming an inverted V.
Downward dog anyone?