Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is a great asana that engages the whole body. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include: Stronger hands, wrists, low-back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendonDecrease in back pain by strengthening the entire back and shoulder girdleElongated shoulders and shoulder blade areaDecrease in tension and headaches by elongating the cervical spine and neck and relaxing the headDeepened respirationDecreased anxietyIncreased full-body circulationFor the lay person or yogi, downward facing dog elongates and lengthens the back. Think about how critical this is for an office worker who is hunched over at a desk all day. As a matter of fact, most people--from office workers to drivers, teachers and moms--are in a constant forward bend all day and would benefit immensely by stretching and lengthening the back shoulders and front body. Additionally, downward facing dog is a mild inversion since the head is lower than the hips, and inversions are great for increasing blood flow to the brain and eyes. And because it stimulates the nervous system, it also helps with memory and concentration.For the athlete, this pose is essential for assessing postural needs and imbalances. It is an important habit for athletes to check themselves frequently for problems. This pose is a gentle way for athletes to open the hamstrings for quickness and speed, stretch shoulders, and keep wrists strong and supple--for grip strength in baseball and for pushing on the offensive line. Keeping the lower back open and strong, complimenting a strong core is important for agility on fields from soccer and football to tennis and golf. Finally, the pose helps to stretch toes, calves and arches, and feet--and having flexible feet translates directly to speed in any sport that involves running.Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly-trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely: If you have a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, if you are in the late stages of pregnancy and if you experience sharp pains while performing the pose.Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.