Adho Mukasvanasana, downward facing dog, is a basic pose that you will practice in any yoga class around the world. It strengthens the legs, arms, back and core. Stretches the hamstring and calf muscles, opens the hip joints, and optimizes the curves and length in the spine. All key elements for a healthy pain free back!
Weather you spend a lot of time sitting down and your back feels tight, have tight leg and hips, or If suffer from chronic back pain, this pose can be a life saviour.
You may be wondering, ‘what is the catch’? Well, truth is that not everyone can go into Down Dog straight away. Due to tight and /or weak muscles in the body you may experience discomfort in the wrists, shoulders, legs and hips that will stop you from experiencing immediate pain relief.
The good news is that you can have the benefits of the pose by practicing variations that do not require you bear weight on your hands and wrists.
Here are a couple of options that will support your back without the struggle of bearing weight on your hands. This will give you an opportunity to learn and work on the alignment and build toward practicing the pose on the Ground
1. Use the Wall to achieve the basic form of the pose
It is key to pay close attention to the way you align your feet and knees. You may want to refer to earlier relevant posts to help you. Look below for links.
Keep your hands firmly pressing on the wall.
Your arms strong. Try not to collapse your shoulders sternum or belly.
2. Effective Hamstring Muscle Stretch & Optimal Lumbar Curve
If your lower back is completely flat or very rounded it will be difficult to experience the benefits of the pose and stretch your hamstrings.
Practice these actions and alignment cues to help you get there.
Once you have you have engaged the leg muscles and created optimal curve in the lower back use your hands to push on to the wall to ground the top of the legs and pelvis back and stretch and lengthen your back.
Key to this pose is to be able to be steady, maintain the curve in the spine as you move into a deeper stretch. Work towards building strength in the legs and arms, and cultivate the ability to tone and stretch muscles simultaneously.
As you continue to sustain balance action, your legs will become straighter. But only straighten your knees as far as you can without compromising the curve and length in your lower back.
If you would like to learn more, you may enjoy this full sequence with specific exercises to ease lower back pain. "Yoga Therapy for Back Pain and Stress Relief"