Downward Facing Dog is one of the most well known poses in yoga. And for good reason. It simultaneously strengthens your shoulders and wrists, teaches you how to activate your core, stretches your hamstrings and calves, and is a great way to prepare for more advanced arm balances and handstands.
In a standard yoga class, it’s likely you’ll revisit Down Dog at least 20 times so mix up your practice with these Down Dog variations.
Down Dog Variations
1. Normal Down Dog – start with your hands shoulder width and feet hip distance and focus on pushing your chest back towards your thighs
2. Wide Down Dog – take your hands and feet mat width. This is slightly easier if you have tight legs.
3. Narrow Down Dog – bring your toes, ankles, and knees together and make a diamond with your thumbs and forefingers. This is tougher on the shoulders.
One Arm Down Dogs
One arm Down Dogs are a great challenge for upper body strength and core stability.
Start off by reaching your right arm back to take hold of your right ankle. Keep your left shoulder strong. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then repeat on the left side. Add in a twist by reaching your right arm under to take hold of your left ankle. Look up and under your left armpit to deepen the twist. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then repeat reaching your left arm to your right ankle.
Three Legged Dogs
Three Legged Dog increases the challenge of Down Dog by activating your core to keep you stable and stretching the back and insides of your thighs.
Explore these 3 variations:
1. Lift one leg at a time to the sky, keeping your hips even, and hold for 5-10 breaths.
2. Lift one leg at a time to the sky and open your hips. Bend your leg to bring the heel of your lifted leg towards your opposite buttock. Flip your dog to Wild Thing pose if your body is ready.
3. Lift one leg at a time out to the side, aiming to get your leg parallel to the floor. This is great for glute activation.
Down Dog Jumps
These are a great drill to practice if you want to build up to handstand. They strengthen your shoulders and wrists and give you confidence in being upside down.
As you jump, aim to stack your hips over your shoulders. And as you land, control the movement to land as softly as possible.
An easy way to include them into your training is to add 5 sets of 5 reps to the end of your workout before you stretch.
For more tutorials check out the Yoga Gym Facebook page.