Asana Variations: Downward Dog
Today we're talking about Downward Dog and how we can experience it is a wide variety of ways. Downward Dog is one of the poses most often associated with Yoga in the west; but so often we are only given one possible physical variation. However, there are many ways to experience the benefits of this inversion and we wanted to share a few of those with you today! Note that while these are highly varied; they aren't even ALL the available possibilities.
Many people think about this first variation when they think of Downward Dog. Palms and feet on the mat, spine and neck long; hips reaching up towards the sky. While this is a wonderful variation; given that much of the weight is on the hands and feet this posture can feel inaccessible or uncomfortable. This particular variation can also be contraindicated for certain conditions in which the head should not be put below the heart; which may include glaucoma, high blood pressure, and inflammation in the head.
One of the first variations we'd like to discuss is the addition of blocks. Putting blocks under the hands can relieve some of the strain on the wrists and create some more space for transitions in Sun Salutations. Deeply bending the knees can also create more length in the spine and more comfort than when we're trying to force the feet flat on the floor.
This third variation is using a chair to bring the floor up to the body. This variation is wonderful for anyone who does not want to be getting up and down fully from the floor. The front or back of the chair can be used to bring the body to the height that feels most comfortable. Knees can remain soft, hinging from the hips and extending long through the upper torso as we reach for the chair.
This next variation utilizes the wall in much the same way as the chair was used in the previous variation. This variation is a wonderful one for individuals who experience contraindications to inversions, as it keeps the head above the heart. Starting in Mountain pose (standing), hinge forward at the hips and bring the hands to rest on the wall. Adjusting the width of the feet and distance from the wall to create a comfortable and steady lengthening of the spine. Feel free to explore various distances and spacing to find one that works best for you.
This next variation; we'll go back to the chair. For this variation, you'll be seated in the chair. Pictured here, the legs are extended long on the floor; however, for stability and comfort, the knees can also be bent and the feet can be flat on the floor. You can hinge forward at the hips and extend the arms long into the air; again lengthening through the spine.
You can also bring the wall into this variation as well; by sitting facing the wall and allowing the palms to rest high on the wall in front of you.
Our final variation today is Downward Dog from a reclined position on the mat. This is a great variation for someone lying in bed, someone who can not put weight on the wrists, ankles or knees, or if you simply want to do a full floor practice.
In this variation, we invert the lower part of the torso, bringing the feet up into the air on a bolster or pressed against the wall. The hands come up over head and again, lengthen through the spin.
There are as many variations as there are people; because Yoga is not about molding our bodies into particular shapes, but rather using postures to stretch and strengthen and feel more fully into the bodies we have. Each and every unique and beautiful individual is worthy and deserving of a practice that supports and nurtures them. We hope this post has helped give you some options and variety to play with in your own practice and we hope to see you on the mat soon.
With gratitude and love,