Every Day has its Dog: 7 Playful Yoga Down Dog Variations
Downward Facing Dog really is a yogi’s best friend. It’s the old reliable, always there when you need a good stretch or a moment to catch your breath. Though we would never suggest Down Dog is (gasp) boring, sometimes it’s nice to spice up the old reliable with a few fun variations. Turns out you can cover a lot of bases while keeping things in the canine family: back bending, twisting, core strength, shoulder strength. It’s all in these seven poses. The sequence is written as a flow but you can always practice the poses independently instead if that suits you better.
Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
1. Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
2. Keep your butt high and your knees over your ankles as you slide your arms forward, melting your chest toward the mat.
3. You may bring your forehead or chin to the mat.
4. Keep your arms active with the elbows off the floor and rotate your upper arms outwards to broaden the shoulders.
5. Hug your ribs together so they don’t flare out. This helps support your spine.
Stay five breaths.
Dolphin Pose (AKA Forearm Dog)
1. Lower your elbows so that your forearms are now on the mat.
2. Spread your fingers and ground down through your forearms and fingertips.
3. Curl your toes under and lift your hips as you would for Downward Facing Dog.
4. Continue both the outward rotation of the upper arms and the hugging in of the lower ribs that you established in Puppy Pose.
5. As in Down Dog, keep your gaze toward your navel.
6. If you want, walk your feet a few steps in towards your elbows. Bringing your hips over your shoulders is a stepping stone towards Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana).
Stay three to five breaths.
Ana Forrest‘s Turbo Dog
1. Come to hands and knees position.
2. Bend both your elbows so that they are pointing straight back and hovering 4-5 inches above the floor.
3. Wrap your shoulders by moving your shoulder blades around toward your armpits and hugging your elbows together isometrically. (This means that you activate the muscles to draw the elbows together but don’t actually move them any closer toward one another. You can imagine that you are squeezing a block between the elbows)
4. Lift the space on your upper back that is between the shoulder blades.
5. Tuck your toes and lift your hips to Down Dog legs.
6. Keep the neck relaxed and keep wrapping the shoulders.
Hold for three to five breaths.
Downward Facing Dog Twist
1. Straighten your arms, lifting your elbows off of the floor. You can lift both arms at the same time or do one at a time.
2. Pause for a breath in Down Dog. Before going for the twist, you may want to walk your feet in a few inches toward your hands for a shortened Dog.
3. Take your gaze under your left arm. Lift your right hand off of the floor and let it follow your gaze until it meets up with your left ankle or calf.
4. Once you have a hold on your left leg, use that leverage to deepen your twist, bringing your right shoulder under your left and opening your chest more to the left side.
5. Remember to breathe even though your diaphragm is compressed by the twist.
After three to five breaths, release your right hand and return it to the front of the mat. Take several breaths back in a neutral position before twisting to the other side.
Downward Facing Dog Split (AKA Three-Legged Dog)
1. If you shortened your stance for the twist, make sure to step your feet back out a few inches.
2. Step your left foot in toward the Central Line on your Liforme mat. Lift your right foot up off of the mat, keeping your leg straight and your foot flexed with the toes pointing at the floor. If your left heel spiked up, release it toward the floor.
3. Keep your hips squared to the floor for a breath or two. Then you can open your hips, stacking the right hip point over the left one.
4. Bend your right knee, bringing your foot close to your glutes. Take your knee in a few wide circles to lubricate the joint where your femur meets the pelvis. Keep equal weight in both hands as you do this.
Return your right foot to the floor and repeat the pose on the other side.
1. Lift your right leg to return to a Down Dog Split with an open hip. This time, continue to open your right hip even more, turning your pelvis to face the ceiling. Bend your left knee and lift your right arm off the mat so that your right foot can drop to the floor to the left side of your mat as you flip your Dog. To accomplish this, you have to pivot on the ball of the left foot so that your toes turn toward the back edge of your mat.
2. In this version, the legs are symmetrical with both knees bent. The right arm reaches toward the front of the room.
3. To flip back, rotate your chest to face the floor and return your right hand to the mat. Let your hips follow back into Down Dog.
Repeat Flip Dog on the other side.
Bonus Pose: Downward Facing Dog Dancer
If you’re still feeling frisky, try this challenging balance plus backbend.
1. Begin in Down Dog Split with the right leg lifted and the hip points facing the floor.
2. Bend your right knee and bring your right foot toward your butt.
3. Bring your gaze to the front of your mat. Lift your right hand off of the floor and reach around to grab your right toes.
4. Move your right foot away from your butt and straighten your right arm to come into a deep backbend (spinal extension) and shoulder opener.
Release and try the pose on the other side.