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Strike a Yoga Pose: Downward Facing Dog

We've reached the last pose in the Sun Salutation A. Downward facing Dog, or Down Dog as I usually call it is one of the toughest poses to hold in yoga. It works every part of your body, and when you first begin to do yoga, you have a hard time holding this pose for more than 2 breaths. After you practice for a while, you'll build up the muscles and strength in your arms to hold yourself up, and then Down Dog actually becomes somewhat of a resting, relaxing pose.

This pose strengthens all the muscles in your arms, but could put strain on your wrists. You can prevent wrist pain by shifting weight into your fingertips, to take the weight off the heels of your palms.

You can also work your core muscles in this pose, by pulling your navel to your spine, and breathing into your ribs. You'll really feel a stretching in your hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon. It's an all-around total body pose, which is why it's one of my favorites.

Here's how to get into it.

When you are in Sun Salutation A, once you get to the Standing Forward Bend pose, as you exhale, step or jump both feet back and come into 4-Limbed Staff pose. Eventually your body will be in one straight line.
From here, inhale and scoop your chest forward between your arms, coming into Upward Facing Dog pose. The only thing on the ground are your hands and the tops of your feet. Try to lengthen through your spine and draw your shoulder blades back and down away from your ears.
As you exhale, press into your palms and lift your hips up away from you, so you're in an upside down "V" shape called Downward Facing Dog. Spread your fingers wide and make sure you're creating a straight line with your middle finger and forearm. Work on bringing your heels down towards the ground. They should be slightly wider than your toes, so the outside edges of your feet are parallel with the outside edges of your mat. Work on holding for five breaths.

Fit's Tips: You can definitely work on holding this pose for longer to build and tone the muscles in your arms, upper back and shoulders. This is a great stretch to do after a run because it lengthens the backs of your legs, and if you bend your knees slightly, you'll feel a release in your lower back. While this pose may seem taxing at first, it will soon become your rest pose. So practice up!!!

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