“The downward facing dog energizes yet calms the nervous system and helps process stress.” Downward facing dog in Ehrenfeld Köln photo by howlzap Cologne

I fell completely in love with yoga when I did my first downward facing dog Adho Mukha Svanasana. It felt like magic-unicorn-fairy-dust cursing through me. It wasn’t perfect or very stable, but this doesn’t actually matter in yoga.

To feel the effects, you just find your version of the pose and hold it for a few breaths. Five breaths is optimal but a couple and then bringing your knees to the ground before a second one is fine the too.

The magic comes from having your head below your heart, the asana stretches your back and hamstrings and you almost automatically raise your pelvic floor. The latter is particularly good for bladder issues and I credit this pose for a more robust and healthier pelvic floor and no incontinence issues. The downward facing dog energizes yet calms the nervous system and helps process stress.

Start on all fours on your mat or towel:

  • Hands splayed out and shoulder distance apart, knees hip width apart
  • Align yourself with wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips
  • Inhale tuck your toes under
  • Exhale straighten your back and legs pointing your bottom upwards
  • Make a triangle with your arms and back one side, legs the second and the mat the third
  • Breathe deeply in and out through your nose
  • Ground your hands into the mat and straighten your back
  • Check the inside of your elbows are facing each other
  • Heels press down towards the mat (but it takes practice probably until you can straighten your legs and your heels reach the mat)
  • Breathe

For a seated chair or edge of the bed modification:

  • Inhale and sit up
  • Place your feet on the ground hip distance apart
  • Exhale and fold forward stretching your back and arms towards the floor (you don’t have to reach it)
  • Rest your upper body on your thighs
  • Breathe

Repeat daily as often as you need to.