Anyone who has heard of yoga has probably also heard of downward facing dog. So those who start out practicing yoga tend to skip over the correct alignment since they’re under the impression that this is such a basic pose. But it’s not really as simple as one may initially believe. So here are some pointers on how to get your body positioned right.
Distance – Let’s start with how far your hands and feet should be from each other. Position yourself in plank pose – in other words, the top of a pushup. Your shoulders should be just a little forward of your wrists. Now, keeping your hands and feet where they are, tilt hips up until you form an upside-down V.
Hands – Keep them about shoulder-width apart, fingers spread wide apart and facing forward. Push into your knuckles and the fleshy part of your hand between the thumb and first finger. Less weight/pressure should be on your wrists.
Feet – They should be hip-width apart, facing forward, and parallel to each other (maybe even slightly pigeon-toed, as in turning toward each other). To measure, take your fists side by side (so that the thumbs touch) and put them between your feet. That’s the distance they should be. Aim your heels down toward the floor. It is very unlikely the heels will be touching the floor and that’s okay.
Shoulders – Pull them away from your ears and chest. You should feel as if you are lifting yourself up, by pushing into your hands.
Back – You want a straight back. Don’t curve it too much in either direction. You should feel like you are squeezing your upper back muscles, or your deltoids, together behind your back a little bit.
Ribs – Tuck your ribs in so that they don’t jut out. Imagine as if someone is zipping your ribs together.
Stomach – Engage your abdominal area and tuck it in.
Tailbone – Tuck in your tailbone, but not so much that you end up like an upside-down U instead of V.
Hips – Bring your hips up to the sky and back behind you.
Pelvis – Squeeze your pelvic muscles, as if you are trying to stop urine from coming out.
Legs – Keep your legs strong, steady, and straight. The looser your hamstrings become, the better your downward dog will be.
Head – Gaze toward your pelvis or, if you can’t do that, at your feet. Shake your head a little bit to loosen tension.