Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) benefits and common mistakes
I am an absolute fan of Adho Mukha Svanasana, or as known in Western culture, the Down Dog pose. Ever since I started practicing yoga, this asana has always felt so energizing and at the same time, so soothing!
After twisting my wrist few times during my early 20s, practicing regularly the down dog helped me strengthening the wrists in a "soft way". What do I mean with this? In the asana, we have the perfect weight on the wrists to make the muscles stronger without overdoing it. Pressure isn't too much, it isn't too less: so if you are having wrist pain, usually caused due to weak muscles, give a try to regularly practice the down dog.
At the same time, if practiced correctly, in the downward-facing dog we softly lengthen the shoulders, lower back, hamstrings and calves. Therefore, it makes it as the perfect asana to stretch the body at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the day. Any time when your body feels tense or you feel your muscles are getting stiff, try to hold the down dog for a minute and you will immediately feel more released!
Indeed, the down dog has the following 5 main benefits:
1. Calms the brain and helps relieving stress and mild depression symptoms
2. Brings blood flow to the brain, boosting your energies
3. Strengthens the wrists, arms and shoulders; including ankle joints
4. Lengthens your spine, hamstrings and calves if practiced correctly
5. It eliminates stiffness and back pain
However, few of these benefits get limited (if not eliminated) if we practice the down dog with the wrong alignment.
First rule: place the hands shoulder width apart, and the feet hip width apart.
Second rule: as my Iyengar yoga teacher taught me, fingers should be spread, spreading at the same time the body weight on each finger. Ideally, your index finger should be pointing to the front and in line with your arm.