Curvy Down Dog

Down Dog is just one of those poses, ya know?  Many people have a love/hate relationship with it.  I fell pretty strongly on the hate side for, oh, let’s say the first five years of my practice.

Over time, though, I grew to love the pose (most of the time) because I discovered many different variations of it that I can choose from depending on what I want in my practice on any given day.  Here are a few for you to play with!

Puppy Dog

1. Begin facing a wall, approximately arm’s distance away.

2. Press your hands into the wall at the height of your shoulders.

3. Begin walking your feet back, allowing your spine to lengthen.  Bend your knees considerably here.

4. Once you’ve walked back to a point where your spine is roughly parallel to the floor, begin working your legs toward straight.

5. This pose is a fabulous option because it allows you to really work on alignment without coming out as often as is sometimes needed with Down Dog because in Puppy your legs are doing the vast amount of the support.

Down Dog

Child’s Pose

1. Come into Child’s Pose.

2. Maintaining this extended arm position, lift your hips up, keeping your shins on the ground; you are now in a modified Table Top pose with arms extended.

3. From here, tuck your toes under so that your toes are “standing” on the mat.

4. Keeping your knees bent, begin to lift your hips up.  If you’re into knowing what shape you’re making, it’s kind of like an “M” with one side considerably bigger than the other (or, an “M” drawn by an enthusiastic three-year-old).

Down Dog

5. As you feel comfortable, begin working your legs toward straight, allowing the heels to drop toward the floor.  Pressing your thighs back as you are able allows you to hold more of the pose in your legs, which is important for arm safety and stamina.  This will also give you more lengthening through your spine.

6. Another option here is to practice with the heels on the wall.  In this variation, your heels come onto a wall (generally just above the baseboard, or to that level if your wall does not have a baseboard).  The wall can give your legs a little more support and, again, help you not hang the whole pose on your shoulders and arms.

Down Dog with Heels at Wall

7. To come out, gently lower the knees back to the ground.  Shift your butt back toward your heels in Child’s Pose.  When you’re ready, come back onto hands and knees or to seated/standing.

What are some of your favorite Down Dog variations?

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33 Responses to “Curvy Down Dog”

  1. babs

    Great post, Anna! I love downward dog!

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Babs!

      • nancy

        love it! was a pose I struggled with FOREVER b/c I wanted to “get it right” and everyone gave me different cues. Finally Sadie told me to come out of my upper body (my area of strength) and more into an even distribution and to let go. I realized with her help that my goal was to be there and not to struggle there… and then it became a favorite pose.

        Love the tips!!

        • Anna Guest-Jelley

          Oh, I so relate to that! I always hated the pose until I took it all out of my upper body, too. Makes such a difference!!

  2. Madeleine

    What a great conversation – I am going to go try all of these stat, just for fun. Special thanks to Lynn Louise up there, I’ve never heard of that one before…I think I can picture it…

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Yay! Let us know if you cook up any other juicy options. 🙂

  3. Y is for Yogini

    i’m hyperextended in both my arms and legs, so dd has always been a challenge. that said, i’m learning to draw in and protect, while also relaxing. kind of like walking and chewing bubblegum. 😉

    on another note, i love puppy dog — such a great variation! feeeeels gooood!

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Or patting your head and rubbing your stomach? 🙂

      I love Puppy, too; I always just feel like saying ahhhhhhh when I do it. 🙂

    • Juanita

      I must say, this is one of those poses that for me tells me what mood my body is in.
      If this pose brings a centred feeling with a sigh of release, I’m having a limber yoga day. However, if my shoulder blades feel like they’re about to crack and my calves to tear, I know it’s one of those days I will not be channeling Gumby’s lack of creaky joints no matter how hard I try!
      And there is never a middle ground for me on this one.

  4. Thais

    lately my wrists have been really hurting me – so downdog has not been my best friend. love the alternatives gotta go give those a shot! =D

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Definitely! I had major wrist problems for a long time in this pose. One of the reasons was not letting my legs do enough of the work. The other is that I have a cyst inside my right wrist that flares up from time to time. In addition to these variations, I also sometimes use a wedge or roll up the edge of my mat for support.

  5. Moe

    Traditionally, down dog has always been one of my favorite poses. It is also one of the poses I miss the most since my Achilles tendon injury. I’ll have to give your variation a try. Thanks.

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Ah…yes! I think the puppy variation with the wall or chair would be a great option to try. The blocks option might also work well, but it could potentially start to get more into the achilles depending on how you come into/hold it. Hope you find one that works for you!

    • Racheal Cook

      For sure have had the love-hate with down dog! But now mostly love. Mainly because I’ve found my alignment thanks to some awesome teachers in the Anusara community. Now it’s my resting pose. Or my this-is-the-only-pose-today-while-toddlers-climb-on-me pose!

  6. Cindi

    Just want to mention that I LOVE, LOVE LOVE your posts.
    I have been doing yoga since I was 16 year old back in the 70’s and am now 54. I have been always curvy and have an hour glass fiqure, Rubinest. When I took my yoga teacher training the other trainiers also look to me as I was the “Queen of Props” as they could see how I would modify poses to suit and honour where I was. I love down dog even if it is challenging for me, I use a bolster for my hands to rest on this way I can have my feet flat on the floor and feel the weight lifted off my upper body and more supported by my larger muscles in the lower body. I have also used blocks set against the wall to place my hand in down dog. just having the few inches also creates equal weight distribution in upper and lower body and releives the tension that can be created with out the use of props. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and thoughts. take care, Cindi

    • Margarita @ Weightless

      Anna, great options! I haven’t done much yoga lately, but Down Dog has always been a challenge for me (and will continue to be, I’m sure). I’ll definitely try your tips. I love the pics, too! 🙂 I’m terrible at reading instructions for an exercise and trying to figure out what the heck I’m then supposed to do!

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thank you for your sweet words, Cindi! I love that you’re the “Queen of Props” 🙂
      Thanks so much for bringing up the bolster option, too! That is a good one!

  7. This Week’s Warm Link Hugs: May 29 « TouchstoneZ

    […] Curvy Yoga shows how to make DownDog accessible to any body at any level in Curvy Down Dog […]

  8. JessDR

    Oooh, thanks! I’m a down-dog lover, but I have some issues with my toes, and on a bad day, I can’t put much pressure on them, so the puppy version will really come in handy. (And I can’t do the tuck-the-toes thing ever – I have to step into it.)

    • JessDR

      Also, I have always found it funny that my cats do a down-dog-style stretch FAR more often than a “cat” stretch.

  9. TiffGeorge

    Thank you so much for this!!!
    My instructor just isn’t able to understand why down dog isn’t relaxing for me. We use it in almost every routine to regroup and calm between transitions, and yet it always seems to frustrate and discomfort me.

  10. M

    I always end up putting WAY too much pressure on my already arthritic hands! (I’m 23, why is this an issue?! 🙁 ) My instructors all love to use Down dog because they teach primarily Vinyasa, and Down Dog generate a lot of heat and activates a lot of muscles. It’s also wonderful for transitioning. I’ll definitely use your suggestions next class!

  11. cindiSue

    Why do you have an article taking about puppy pose and instead of showing puppy pose you show 3 versions of downward dog? This article really needs a photo of the puppy version.

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