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Video:Improve Your Downward Facing Dog

with Paula Tursi

Downward dog is an essential pose in most yoga practices - and it's also a particularly delicious stretch. Don't be complacent in your downward facing dog - find out how you can improve it, or try a down dog modification.See Transcript

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Transcript:Improve Your Downward Facing Dog

Hi, I am Paula Tursi, the Director of Reflections Yoga, here today for About.com. Today, we will be working on Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana.

Benefits of Downward Dog

This is an amazing pose for a spinal stretch. It is great to open your hips, your hamstrings, and your shoulders.

Improve Your Downward Facing Dog: Step 1

So we are going to focus on three easy steps to give you a masterful downward dog. Working with Ricard, I am going to have him place his hands on the wall and stretch the hips back. You always want to be sure that the middle fingers are lined up. Now envision that you have two jar heads underneath your hands and that you can spin the jar heads in opposite directions. As he does that you will notice that the shoulders open up, so that there is space between the shoulder blades.

Improve Your Downward Facing Dog: Step 2

Step Two, we want to find a container. So from his pinky finger he is going to draw up the outside of his arm and connect all the way to the bottom tip of his shoulder blade. So that gives him some stability.

Improve Your Downward Facing Dog: Step 3

Step Three, he wants to reach back out and find the Earth. So he is going to reach back through the arm and stretch through his pointing finger. By doing that, that should give him both flexibility and stability in his downward dog.

Put It All Together

So we are going to see what it looks like on the floor. So again, it is always important to make sure that your middle fingers line up, and then begin to spin the jars -- Step One. From spinning the jars, find a nice connection from your pinky finger into the bottom tip of your shoulder blade, and then holding that, curl your toes and reach back into downward dog.

Once you get there and you can feel that your elbows are nice and connected, and you are secure in the blades of your shoulders, you can reach back out through the pointing finger and find the Earth. Doing that should give you a beautiful V shape which is what we are looking for in downward dog.

Downward Dog Modification

I am going to bring Ricard down to his knees now, and we are going to do a modification using a chair. For those of us who have really tight shoulders, bringing our hands to the seat of the chair helps to elevate the floor a little bit. So he can walk his feet a little further back, maybe all the way to the edge of the mat, and allow himself again to stretch, connecting even here, the pinky finger to the elbow and to the shoulder blade. This gives us a beautiful opening in the shoulders, which is key to having a successful downward dog.

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