One smooth stretch

DO IT RIGHT

One smooth stretch

Promoting a feeling of wellbeing and calmness, adhomukha svanasana offers myriad health benefits, writes Pragya Bhatt

Sthira sukham asanam means that that a yoga asana should feel steady and promote a feeling of wellbeing and calmness. The adhomukha svan-asana or the downward facing dog pose is an integral pose for any yoga practice. The asana has multiple benefits - when done correctly - making it a pose that should be practised everyday.

Step-by-step

The best way to learn how to do the adhomukha svanasana is to look at a dog! Look at how much they stretch their forelegs, how lithe and supple the body looks and how relaxed they look while stretching in the pose. If you suffer from high blood pressure or are pregnant, practise the pose with care.  

* Start with the plank pose (Chaturangasana).

* Now start to lift your hips up towards the ceiling making sure your hands and feet remain in the same place. Many feel the urge to walk on their feet a bit so that their heels touch the floor, but avoid doing so.   

* Try and straighten the knees, and keep your elbows locked.

* Once you’re in the final position, take your awareness to the stretch on the back of the legs. The practitioner must aim to get a continuous stretch from the back of the ankles to the glutes.

* Take your awareness to your hands and dig your fingers into your mat. Almost as though you are trying to grab sand on the beach. This will activate all of the muscles and joints in your arms, and give you one smooth stretch. It will also ensure that both arms are equally strengthened.

* Pushing your hands into the floor enables your upper body to lift up towards the ceiling. Try and keep your back straight. So the awareness moves from the base of your neck to your tailbone. Most beginners tend to ignore the tailbone, which happens when the tailbone remains inactive. So you want to push your belly button in and lift the tailbone up. This is an internal movement and the change may not even be perceptible in your posture, but it’s imperative that you straighten the backbone.

* Once the upper body is straight, push the heels on to the floor. It is not necessary that your heels touch the floor. The important thing is to feel an equal and uniform stretch on both legs. Push the inner edges of your feet into the floor and feel the smooth stretch.

* The final position should be relaxed, streched, and should not strain your arms and neck.

The benefits

* It is great for heart health because it enables the blood to flow towards the heart. This ensures that blood is purified, and it gives the heart a break and enables all the old blood to be pumped and cleansed by the heart.

* This pose helps in reducing wrinkles.

* It is great for scalp health as well as reducing dandruff.

* The asana is known to help those with in varicose veins.

* It strengthens the arms, shoulders and wrists.

* It also strengthens the ankles and tones the legs.

* The pose helps straighten the spine; so it’s recommended for those with curvature of the spine issues.

* It is known to reduce backaches.

* This pose helps in stabilising a heavy menstrual flow, if done between the menstrual cycle.

* It also alleviates symptoms of menopause.

(The author is a Bengaluru-based  yoga instructor)

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