Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Facing Dog Pose

Benefits: This pose has the look and feel of a dog having a good stretch.  The spine, hamstrings, and shoulders are all stretched vigorously and the inversion provides additional blood flow to the head.

Step by Step

1.  From Mountain Pose/Tadasana, fold forward from the hips into Deep Forward Fold/Uttanasana, hands beside the feet.  Inhale and look forward, raising the chest away from the thighs.  On an exhalation, step the right foot and then the left foot back (or jump them lightly back together).  Have the feet and hands at least 3 feet apart.

2.  Place your feet hip width apart with the legs straight and strong.  Spread the fingers, press the palms evenly into the floor and move your chest closer toward your thighs as you press the sitting bones of the buttocks upward, lengthening the spine.  Move your hips back and up, away from the wrists.

3.  Once you have reached maximum upward extension of the spine, focus on opening the backs of the legs.  Press down through the heels and fully straighten the knees, without locking them.  If the soles of the feet come fully to the floor, step your feet farther back to give yourself more of a challenge.

4.  Rotate your shoulders externally so that the upper arms move away from the ears.  Let the crown of the head come closer to the floor so that the back of the neck is long.  Tuck your chin in and look toward the navel.

5. Stay here for 10-30 breaths, breathing smoothly and deeply to enliven the whole body.  Release on an inhalation, by looking forward as you step or jump the feet forward between the hands.  Exhale into Deep Forward Fold/Uttanasana, head toward the knees, then inhale and raise the arms and upper body back up to stand in Mountain Pose/Tadasana.

6.  Counterpose: Wrist releases, Standing Half Bow Balance.