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Pose spotlight - Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) is a meditation in action that increases the range of motion in your shoulders and strengthens your upper body. It also stretches your hamstrings and calves and is great preparation as well as an alternative for more challenging inversions. Adho Mukha Svanasana is standing pose, a forward bend, a back bend, and an inversion.

Begin in Tadasana. Then come on to the floor on your hands in knees. Place your hands shoulder width apart onto the mat. Make sure your wrists are parallel to the front of the mat. Spread your palms and index fingers out.

Set your knees directly below your hips. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Distance your hands and feet so that your hips create a 90-degree angle. Draw the pelvis away from the shoulders and up off the legs. Reach the pubic bone and tailbone away from the torso equally, neither arching nor rounding the lower back.

With an exhalation, move your hips back and up, lengthening the spine and the waist. Press your thighbones (femurs) back, drawing work of the pose out of the arms and into the legs. Use the strength of the legs to lengthen the spine by pulling the hips off the waist. Reach back evenly with the inner thighs and outer thighs.

Keep the feet hip distance apart and parallel. Keep the second toe in line with the center of the heel. Press down evenly through the feet. Press your heels down and lengthen the toes.

Straighten your legs by engaging the quadriceps and move the quadriceps toward the hamstrings.

Push the floor away with your hands to lengthen your arms back and up. Straighten the arms by engaging the triceps. Firm the upper inner arms (biceps) slightly to prevent hyper-extension of the elbows. Lift the inner arm up and into the shoulder to stabilize the arms in their sockets.

Open the shoulders and lengthen the sides of the torso by angling the inner border of the shoulder blades away from the spine (upward rotation). Wrap the shoulders blades toward the sides ribs to reinforce and stabilize the extension from shoulder to hip (engage the serratus anterior).

Draw the trapezius muscle away from the neck and firm the shoulder blades in toward the back ribs while keeping the front ribs soft. Lift the sternum away from the floor and spread across the collarbones. Allow your head to hang freely with no tension in the neck. Relax your face and eyes.

If you are tight in your shoulders, use blocks to alleviate the strain in your shoulders. If you are tight in your hamstrings, slightly bend your knees.

To come out of the pose, bend your knees and come back up onto your feet.

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