If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve heard your teacher give cues for proper alignment. But how do you know if you’re executing them properly? Sometimes you might think you’re in alignment, but your body is in a slightly different shape—affecting both your physical safety (you’re more likely to be injured) and the energetic effectiveness of the posture itself (that is, your body isn’t lined up for the life-force energy to flow through you).
We are going to be walking you through a series where we look at common issues in our yoga practice - taking a look at some of the most used postures in a yoga class.
Downward Facing Dog / Adho Mukha Svanasana
Seems pretty simple right? Yes and no. Often, as a student, we are so keen to emulate the posture as we think it should be practiced, that we actually end up compromising the most important part of the posture.
In a Down dog, there is so much temptation to straighten the legs at all costs - trying to reach those heels down toward the ground. This is really common in almost all students - from beginner to advanced.
Straight legs are absolutely not a problem - as long as you aren't compromising the posture in the spine.
It's useful to think of how interconnected the body is, in order to see how straightening the legs can negatively affect the posture in the back. If you have tight hamstrings, it's difficult to have straight legs, and also to draw your thighs and abdomen together - this is why we so often straight legs can cause the back to round out - the stress has to be released somewhere.
Until the backline of the body is strong and open enough to create a solid inverted “V” shape, bending the knees to tip the sitting bones to the sky is an excellent choice. Widening the hand placement can also create more space in the shoulders and chest to pull the belly back toward the thighs.
A nice way to find a spot that's comfortable for you, is to begin in child's pose, balasana, and then to keep the belly and thighs pressed together as you slowly raise the sit bowns toward the sky. When you can feel that stretch across the shoulders, keeping that softness in the knees, you can feel the spine lengthening and opening up.
Not sure if you're doing it right? Speak to any of our amazing teachers and they will be happy to guide you to a good place that's safe and works for your body.