The Downward-Facing Dog (aka Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a posture where the body forms an inverted V-shape that is said to stretch the whole body from shoulders to legs to spine and builds strength throughout the body, particularly the arms, legs and feet. Downward-Facing Dog promotes the relief of fatigue and rejuvenates the body, improving the immune system, digestion and blood flow to the sinuses, and calms the mind and lifts the spirits.
Downward-Facing Dog: Adho Muka Savanasana
1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set knees directly below your hips [your feet should be hip-distance apart] and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders [also hip-distance apart]. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out [all five fingers of both your hands should be evenly spread wide apart], and turn your toes under.
2. Exhale while you lift your knees away from the floor keeping the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it slightly toward the pubis. Against the resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling [and back], from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins, [heels may be turned slightly outward so that the outer edge of your feet are parallel.]
3. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis. [Adjust so that your sit bones are still stretching up and back.]
4. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor [make sure all five fingers on both your hands are still evenly spread wide]. From your actively pressing index fingers lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders [keep the arms straight but do not lock elbows]. Firm you shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone [keeping the shoulder blades pinned down]. Keep the head between the upper arms, making sure to not let your head hang.
[5. Now while in Downward-Facing Dog adjust and align yourself, it is very easy to become misaligned while doing these steps, so take your time and align yourself correctly. Heels hip-distance apart and turned out so that the outer edges of the feet are parallel, legs straight but knees not locked, thighs pressed back and turned in slightly and stretching towards the groin, hips and sit-bone reaching up and back, spine lengthened, back flat, tummy tucked, arms stretched straight but elbows not locked, arm muscles lengthened from fingers to shoulders, shoulder blades tucked, fingers wide and evenly spread, index finger actively pressed down, head between upper arms, neck lengthened.]
6. The Downward-Facing Dog is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It is also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child's Pose."