Healthy Body

This Popular Yoga Pose Has Major Benefits—But Doing It Right Is Crucial

If you've taken a yoga class, you've probably encountered downward dog at some point during the practice. Even though it looks like a simple posture, downward dog engages your core, redistributes your weight in ways you may not be used to, and requires balance as you hold it. In short: It's more challenging than it might look. Learning better form is useful for any movement, and this pose is no exception. So if you've ever moved into a downward dog during your yoga class or solo practice, you might benefit from watching BK Yoga Club founders Alicia Ferguson and Paris Alexandra explain the fundamentals.

"When done properly, [downward dog] stretches the hamstrings and calves, strengthens the arms, legs, back, and deep abdominal muscles that help stabilize the spine," says Corey Phelps, a yoga instructor and personal trainer previously told Well + Good. She adds that this pose is pretty technical, even though it's really popular, and mastering it can help you feel more confident in your sessions overall (and has the potential to improve back pain).

So, even if you're a downward dog pro, there are a few tips to keep in mind. For example, Ferguson and Alexandra say that it might feel natural to stick out your elbows in downward dog; however, doing this can shift your weight toward the edge of the hand and pinky—instead of evenly spreading it across your fingers and palms. This can contribute to discomfort and injury, she explains.

Ferguson also encourages lengthening the spine so that your head and neck flatten into more of a straight line as well. This means that you should move your shoulders away from your ears as you stretch through the spin, keeping your body in a "V" angle as much as you can. Ferguson adds that if the stretch on your hamstrings and legs is too strong to straighten all the way, consider walking your hands and feet out a bit to relieve some of that intensity. It's more important to practice the best form for this pose—try not to force your body into an angle that is too intense to maintain.

Are you interested in improving your downward dog form? Get a mat ready because Ferguson and Alexandra have some helpful tips in The Right Way's latest episode.

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