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Learning Downward-Facing Dog

You may have seen a lot of press lately about many different kinds and schools of yoga— Iyenegar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, and so on— but they all are variations within the overall category of hatha yoga. Hatha yoga was developed thousands of years ago in India. It is a system of exercise, breathing, and mental focus designed to keep body, mind, and spirit as healthy as possible from childhood to old age. Properly done, these exercises are designed to build strength and flexibility into muscles, improve range of motion, promote overall joint health, and encourage relaxation.

Below are instructions for a very common, useful yoga pose – Downward-Facing Dog.  This posture resembles a dog stretching, thus the name. 

  1. Begin on your hands and knees. Your legs should be shoulder width apart, with your knees directly below your hips. Your arms should also be shoulder width apart and slightly forward of your shoulders. Your head should be held in a neutral position, looking down at the floor. Your ankles should be flexed, and your toes tucked under.
  2. While exhaling, straighten your legs and raise your buttocks toward the ceiling. You should be bending at the hips, with your legs straight. Do not bend your knees. The spine should be elongated, not curved.

  1. Once the buttocks are lifted, try to gently pull your heels down toward the floor. Attempt to hold this posture for three to five breaths. 4. If this posture isn’t too strenuous, you can add a further stretch by gently attempting to lower your head inward, toward your feet, as if to place the crown of your head on the floor. This is an advanced pose but will provide additional benefit for the mid- and upper back. This exercise requires flexibility in the hamstrings, so you may need to be fully warmed up and stretched well before beginning Downward-Facing Dog

For more instructions on stretches and yoga poses, check out Dr. Lenarz’s book The Chiropractic Way, available on Amazon.

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