5 Ways to Take Down Dog Up a Notch

So you think you’ve mastered Downward Facing Dog?  Well think again!  I see many students with their heels down and their head grazing or touching the mat and they think that’s it, I have arrived! But there’s a lot more to explore with this pose. Downward Facing Dog is considered a full body stretch and initially, students will feel a stretch in the arms, the back, and legs.  In addition, it’s considered an inversion so if head or handstands aren’t your thing or you’re still working on those poses you can get similar benefits of an inversion such as increased circulation by practicing Downward Facing Dog.

Once you’re comfortable in Downward Facing Dog the next stage of this gravity challenging pose is to reduce our contact with the mat which strengthens the arms, the core, and the legs in a more dynamic way.

1. Three-Legged Dog.  Begin in Down Dog and bring the feet close together.  Transfer your weight equally to your hands and feet then lift one leg towards the ceiling.  Keep the shoulders squared forward and breathe.  This variation strengthens the upper body.

2. Stacked Hips.  While in Three-Legged Dog, bend the knee of lifted leg and stack the hips while keeping the shoulders squared towards the top of the mat.

3. Add a Twist. While in Down Dog inhale and lift the right hand from the mat.  On the exhale engage the core and twist slightly to the left as you use your right hand to grab a hold of your left ankle or shin.   This variation strengthens the core and improves balance.

4. Lower Onto Your Forearms.  While on hands and knees bring the forearms to the mat and slowly lift the knees from the mat and send the hips up and back towards the wall.  This variation, also known as Dolphin Pose, strengthens the core and stretches the hamstrings.

5. Create Length.  Create more of a challenge by lengthening the distance between the hands and feet to the point where the heels do not touch the floor.  

Pick your variation and embrace Down Dog with fresh eyes and a renewed perspective. 

This article originally appeared Originally in gaia