Downward facing dog is the most often occurring pose in almost any type of yoga class. But does it really worth spending all that time holding this pose, or it is just filler or an aid to make transitions flow? What does this pose actually do for the practitioner?
- Relaxes the neck, helping with tension release in the cervical spine.
- Opens up the shoulders and the chest for better posture, and releases built-up tension in these areas.
- Stretches and relaxes the lower back muscles and the gluteus, releasing tension and pain.
- Stretches lower legs, calves and Achilles – facilitating better gait and overall alignment in standing position.
- Makes the ankle more supple preventing its stiffening – an important component in maintaining a youthful, energized gait even in older age.
- Stretches the hamstrings, leading to a better sitting position with the back upright, and no tension in the lower back.
- Stretches the plantar surface, helping the foot to relax.
- Temporarily relieves pressure off the pelvic floor, and it works great in combination with specific techniques for pelvic floor strengthening.
- Tones the diaphragm and massages the internal organs due to the natural drawing in of the abdominal wall that occurs in this pose.
- Drives more blood toward the brain, because the head is positioned below the level of the torso.
Relationship to other poses
Moola Bandha: main technique used to tone the pelvic floor, which prevents prolapse of pelvic organs, and assists with recovery following episiotomy and pelvic floor surgery. Don Dog facilitates the practice of Moola Bandha because it uses gravity synergistically to the technique itself.
Cobra and Upward-Facing Dog: complement Down Dog through opening up the front body, while engaging the back of the torso.
Straight Legs Seated Forward Fold: is synergistic to Down Dog, which makes Down Dog an optimal warm up pose for all variations of seated forward folds.
Triangle pose, Extended Side Angle pose: Down dog is synergistic to these through preparing the shoulders and chest for the specific demands of the chest opening poses.
Bound Extended Side Angle pose, Bound Triangle, Bird of Paradise: Down Dog prepares the shoulders and the chest for the specific demands involved in binding through the arms.