This is one of my favorite poses in yoga.

Mainly because it is so versatile. It is a deep stretch up the backline of the body and can also be used to strengthen to your upper body.
It can be performed during the warmup part of your yoga practice as well as a stand alone pose. It is also a lovely way to transition to standing poses via Three Leg Dog.

It can help relieve symptoms of the menopause and improve your digestion. It calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression.
It is oddly enough a very energising pose and great to add into your practice if you are feeling tired or lethargic.

As with any exercise, any tightness in the body can restrict your range in a pose so it is useful to add in a few stretches before you perform the exercise itself.
For Downward Dog I have selected 3 stretches that can help you ease into alignment easier.
•Triceps stretch for the upper arms and shoulder area
•Calf stretch for the lower legs
•Lastly a variation of Downward Dog that can help with a bit of everything!

Below are three stretches that are useful to improve your Downward Dog
Triceps Stretch

This stretch can easily be added to the warmup section of your yoga practice as it can be performed in seated and standing.
• Reach both hands up to the ceiling, should width apart
• Bend one elbow and aim that hand roughly in between your shoulder blades
• Gently guide elbow back with opposite hand
• Let shoulders relax away from your ears, let your head settle in backwards in between your arms and breathe
• Hold for between 20 secs and 2 minutes and then swap sides

 

 

 

 

Calf Stretch
Stretching your calves can also be added to the warm up section of your practice. It is easy to perform in standing and it can also be performed from a 4 point position which is on your hands and knees.
In the Standing version,
• have your feet hip distance apart and
• step one foot backwards
• bend into front knee and send some energy into heel of the back foot so that it stays connected with the floor
• If you are using a wall like the image keep a tall posture, if you are freestanding, clasp your hands around your lower back to open up your chest
• Hold for between 20 secs and 2 minutes then swap sides
In the 4 Point position
• Without moving your hips straighten one leg out behind you keeping the toes on the floor
• Gently push into the heel of the back leg without sending your weight backwards
• Hold for between 20 secs and 2 minutes then swap sides

 

Downward Dog using a wall
This variation is a lovely stretch in itself and a gentle way of opening up the back of the body without gravity adding in an additional load.
The image is kneeling but you can use a wall or a kitchen worktop is often a good height for this pose. Taking off socks for this one!
• Take a step back from the wall and place your hands shoulder height and also shoulder width apart on the wall.
• Alternately walk your feet back and walk your hands down the wall until you feel like your arms are comfortably extended out.
• Left gravity settle into your shoulders and relax but keep your head active and in line with your arms.
• Take a few breaths here and settle into the pose
• Bend your knees if you want too
• To go a wee bit deeper walk your hands down further to get a deeper stretch into your lower back
• Take a few breaths here and settle into the pose
• Come out of this pose by bending your knees and pushing through your feet to return to standing. Engaging your core to protect the lower back

Adding in specific stretches to your warmup routines can change how a pose feels for you. We all have areas of tightness and areas that need to be strengthen so the more you can listen to your body the better.

It may be different times of the day that you notice your shoulders are tighter or more mobile. Your body can feel different every time you practice yoga so it is a worthwhile skill and habit to get get into.

Always practice discernment whilst exercising. If it’s not feeling good, please stop and get some advice.

I would love to hear if they help improve your Downward Dog ~ Samantha

Stretch Images credit: Physigraphe.com


Samantha Valand is the founder of Wise Women Wellbeing Academy.

A comprehensive hub of resources on healthy eating and exercising in your menopausal years and beyond.