March 26, 2018

Downward Dog Tips + Tricks

"We need to stop thinking of downward dog as a hamstring stretcher, and more of an opportunity to strengthen." This week's movement tip, offers you some simple ideas to make downward dog work for your body, whether you have limited mobility or are super flexible.

One cue does not rule them all. Instead, when we we can adapt yoga poses to be opportunities to work on individual needs, that is the very essence of a sustainable yoga practice.

This video lesson will show you a simple way to adapt your downward dog to your body. I like to think of downward dog as less of a hamstring stretch as a pose that helps but strength and stability for the shoulders and helps to strengthen the hamstrings if you have a lot of hamstring flexibility. 

If you have tight hamstrings, instead of trying to straighten the legs, try simply bending your knees. If we try to straighten our legs with less mobile hamstrings, then we run the risk of tucking your pelvis and straining the low back. When you bend the knees, then you are able to get a more neutral spine, and work on a little bit more hip joint mobility, rather than straining the low back.

For someone who has a lot of hamstring flexibility, then I recommend not creating more of something you already have! In many cases, the person with more hamstring flexibility, needs to work on strengthening their hamstrings, instead of stretching them further. In this case, we would still bend the knees, but by doing so, we want to create a sense of contraction in the hamstrings. 

Watch the video for some helpful tips to create that contraction and load for the hamstrings to make them more strong and prevent one of the more common yoga injuries, which is a proximal hamstring tendon tear. 

And if you are a yoga teacher, it's helpful to understand the underlying building blocks of movement, to create a strong foundation in which to be more clear and confident in their teaching.

Having a strong foundation of body/movement knowledge means that you are no longer bound by rules of yoga alignment or outdated cues. You are able to recognize the missing pieces in a pose and can successfully adapt that to each individual.

If this approach to yoga and teaching sounds exciting to you and you want to update and enhance your own teaching, check out my online yoga teacher development course and certification: The Modern Yogi 

Brea Johnson
Brea Johnson

Brea Johnson has been teaching yoga and movement since 2003 and is the founder and lead teacher of Heart + Bones Yoga. With a focus on a functional and sustainable approach to yoga, Brea is known for providing a safe foundation of healthy movement while remaining focused on the heart of the yogic teachings.