Asana Anatomy Downward Facing Dog
By Dr. Robin Armstrong • May 13th, 2008 • 19898 Views
If you've ever taken an Ashtanga or vinyasa flow class, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog, is no stranger to you. Downward Facing Dog is a fundamental yoga asana, but a surprisingly complex one. As my teacher recently joked, “If I hear one more instructor say the phrase - ‘ Downward Facing Dog is a resting pose'- I'll shoot them!” Nothing is more daunting to a student on their 5th or 6th or 7th Downward Facing Dog to learn that they are supposed to be resting in this complicated pose. Learning about the anatomy of the pose can help us find a little more ease in the mystery that is Downward Facing Dog.
Let's dissect this asana.
Setting the foundation
At the palms, our fingers are spread wide, distributing the weight evenly from the thumb side to the pinky finger side. This minimizes tension and discomfort in the wrists. There should be an ever so slight bend in the elbow, created by the biceps, avoiding hyperextension at the elbows. Imagine the eyes of your elbows (the crease) gently turning forward without changing the hands. This requires the pronator muscle of the forearm to engage the internal rotation of the lower arms, as the rotator cuff muscles (teres major and infraspinatus) turn the elbow eyes forward with outward rotation of the upper arms.
At the feet, our toes are spread wide, feet hip width apart. We should feel an equal amount of weight between the hands and the feet. For many students this means pressing firmly into the palms and allowing the hips to move up and back so that the heels can gracefully meet the floor. Be aware of any tendency to stay up on the balls of the feet, as this can aggravate the plantar fascia of the feet, resulting in an injury known as plantar fasciitis.
Strength in Stillness
As the upper arms roll out, the shoulder blades must be gliding onto the back. We want to avoid winging, or poking out of the lower pole of the shoulder blade. To engage the serratus anterior muscle eccentrically (active lengthening) that controls this gliding, we need to grow broad across the collarbone. ...