Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a wonderful pose to strengthen the whole body, as well as stretching out the hamstrings, ankles, calves and spine. With practice, Downward Dog can eventually become a rest pose to help you reconnect with your breath during strong Vinyasa yoga classes.
In Downward Facing Dog, it’s more important to keep length in the spine than straight legs. So if you find you are rounding in your back or you are hunching your shoulders, here are some different variations you could try...
1. Bend Your Knees
It’s fine to keep the knees bent as much as you need to so you can enjoy the stretch in your back. And remember your heels don’t need to touch the floor!
2. Place Your Hands On Blocks
If you don't have blocks don't worry - you can use a stack of books or something similar. The blocks act as an extension for your arms, helping to elongate your spine. You can still keep your knees bent in this variation.
3. Heels to a Blanket
Gain a little more height by putting a blanket under your heels. This might help to give the feeling of lifting your tailbone up to the sky and feeling the length of your spine.
4. None of these work for you? Try something different.
Puppy pose (sometimes referred to as Half Downward Dog) keeps the elongation of your spine and is more restorative, so if you're not feeling these downward dog variations today (and that's totally ok!) try Puppy instead. Drop your knees to the ground, walk your hands out in front and keep your hips over your heels. Feel the stretch into your shoulders, chest and spine.