Downward Facing Dog is a very popular yoga pose. It is seen and performed while flowing through the Sun Salutations. It is a great pose because it physically stimulates the entire body. I would add that it provides strength to the entire body.
The posture, as said, is typically done while moving through a yoga sequence, but the pose itself can be done as an entire practice.
So what intention can we bring to this pose? Since "Down Dog" works and brings power to the entire body, how about set your intention as experiencing the fullness of your own power and strength.
Sometimes when we workout at the gym, for example, we work specific parts of the body: the arms, the legs, the chest, etc. How about doing ONE pose that works EVERY part of your body. Step into this pose acknowledging ALL of your power and strength. Remind yourself that this energetic power flows through your entire body. It doesn't necessarily have to settle in one place. Why not be strong in your entirety. As you come to Downward Facing Dog, remember that energy.
Because it is an inversion pose (your hands are on the floor and your head is pointing down toward the floor) we build strength in the hands, arms, shoulders, and back. You build core strength, flexibility in your legs, feet, and toes.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start on your hands and knees. Here, set your intention of finding and feeling the fullness of your entire strength. Move the hands forward a bit on your mat. Be sure to make a full and strong connection to the mat with your hands. Spread out your fingers, grip the mat with your fingertips, and press more toward your inner palms so that not too much pressure moves to the outer wrists (potentially causing harm.)
Come up on your toes, and while keeping the knees bent, lift your hips up and back toward the wall behind you. As you make this transition, you will be lengthening through your spine (one of the physical intentions of this pose.) Feel free to keep the knees slightly bent. That will allow you to have mobility in your hips and push them farther back toward the wall behind you further extending your spine. At the same time, press your hands into the floor as if you're trying to push the floor away from you. This will provide more length as well as bring opening to the shoulders and chest.
While in the pose, feel the inner arms move toward one another. This draws your strength and stability inward. If you start to feel you elbows bend and move AWAY from you, or even feel yourself roll to your outer wrists, you may experience a loss of that powerful connection. I often say in class "hug in toward your midline." Your spine is the middle of your body - your midline. If you continue to move energy toward this midline, you develop and maintain your strength.
As mentioned, it is ok to keep you knees slightly bent, but you can also begin to press your heels down toward the floor. You may experience a nice stretch and lengthening feeling in your calves. Yes, the legs can be absolutely straight in this pose, but just be careful that lengthening the legs does not compromise the extended spine you've created in the pose.
Hold the pose for at least 10 breaths. Feel your power. Feel your strength. Yes! It takes EFFORT to hold this pose. But as you stay in sensation - stay in the pose - you DO BUILD POWER!
Once you are done, slowly return your knees to the floor and sit back into Child's Pose. Here, reflect on the fullness of your Self - the Fullness of your Being.
Next time, we'll focus on a variation of Downward Facing Dog: "Turbo Dog."