Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the first part of this dreaded down dog blog, where I shared some useful information about the shoulder girdle/complex and the importance of keeping it as stable as possible.
Now, back to business. DD is not a resting pose. DD is dandasana, staff pose, shoulders in flexion, (arms overhead), fingers reaching, crown of the head reaching, heels reaching, legs working, spine in “perfect” neutral and so much more. Have you tried that lately? For five full breaths? I have. I don’t want to hold it for 108 breaths. Although, it would be fun to work up to that.
Consider other resting pose options for yourself and your students: Table top. Child’s pose. Half dog at the wall. A chair version. Standing in tadasana. I encourage the students in my class to explore other poses.
As I said previously, one of my go-to warmups for the shoulders is called Shoulder Flossing. It is super easy, and if you maintain good posture while flossing, you will gather a lot of valuable information about your true shoulder range of motion. If shoulder flossing bothers you and/or students in your class, I would find out why, and consider not spending a lot of time in DD. I sometimes challenge myself to teach classes down dog free or no more than one breath in down dog. It’s fun to get creative! External rotation, flexion, depression, protraction, co-contracted internal and external rotators is the optimum positioning for poses like DD, handstand, forearm stand, et cetera. For stability, mobility and woofability, get your shoulders set. It’s a lot of work, it’s not restful, but it’s crucial to avoid impingement and shoulder injury. There’s so much to this complicated pose. Always keep learning. Stay out of the dog house.
Enjoyed this article? Read Reset Your Shoulders with Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls
Thank you for sharing the idea of shoulder flossing as a warm up that can assist in prepping for more advanced work with the shoulders. I like the use of the strap as I feel it helps you identify the sticky spots. When I was first taught many postures in yoga, one being downward facing dog I definitely was doing too much retraction of the shoulders and have since moved away from that, working to protect and externally rotate more. I feel working in other movement practices has helped with this as well.
This article covers a lot of important and interesting facts. I love this pose as it allows for a lot of muscle involvements. For me, it is the home base and can be a resting pose for some but I definitely work hard on this as much as I enjoy it.
Ahh! It is so true that down dog is no resting pose. It is deceptive because it is used as a transition or home base posture so we think we can hang there. So much more is happening if we choose to stay engaged in what our body is doing to fight gravity. I love looking at DD as a prep for handstand.
Yes! Downdog is HARD especially for beginners.
Spot on demo!! And I hear you on the DD… done correctly, there is little rest, held for some time, it will uncover blind spots. Thank you for the reminder to not take poses for granted. I feel this is where we do a disservice not onto to the body but open to up opportunities of injury.
Thank you for the video, it’s fine to remember the pose by seeing it in action. And, I like this warm up of flossing as it is pretty simple to explain and to execute.
Shoulder flossing is one of my go to warm ups for the shoulders when I teach yoga. It’s not only a great prep for many poses but also helps to improve posture, breathing and state of mind. Students can do it standing or sitting.
After developping a nasty case of bursitis in both shoulders last year, I discovered I had been doing the lazy (and therefore dangerous!) version of DD for far too many years. External rotation and protraction have become good friends both in the healing process and in life in general. Daily shoulder flossing has helped so much.
A good tip for prepping the down dog! Instead of getting into the dolphin and stressing the shoulders to death, shoulder flossing in YTU is so much better!!!! Thanks!
So often I have heard Downward Dog called a rest post. I get “why” this saying has developed, from so many crazy sequences in a hot room that any form of stillness feels like rest, but it is not. I also see people moving so fast into and out of Downward dog that they completely lose the integrity of their shoulder girdle and really injure themselves.
So often I have heard Downward Dog called a rest post. I get “why” its developed from so many crazy sequences in a hot room that any form of stillness feels like rest, but it is not. I also see people moving so fast into and out of Downward dog that they completely lose the integrity of their shoulder girdle and really injure themselves.
Today I was introduced to shoulder flossing pose. I was amazed by how I felt going through the motions of the pose. Immediately I began to think about all of the tight shoulders I teach with and how I can integrate this posture in future classes I will teach. Using the straps allows the student to explore a little further! This pose called out to me where I tend to overcompensate with my shoulder rotation within my own practice. I love when we can integrate props into our practice as I feel they often get a bad rap.
Shoulder flossing is my favourite warmup for the shoulders to improve range of motion.
If I’m being honest, i have a love hate relationship with shoulder flossing, but it’s only because I need more of it! So many of my teachers call downward dog a rest pose… and because it was so commonly heard I found myself trying to make it a rest pose for me & my body, but I see now that I need review my position on dd & rest.
Hi there! I was recently introduced to this shoulder flossing, and it’s amazing. Excited to have something new to add to the warm up to peak poses such as Ustrasana, Danurasana, wheel…is so important. In many yoga classes you would never make down dog your “peak pose” but I am reminded that which I knew and forgot…any pose can be a peak pose!
vraiment quel bon exercice pour les epaules! de pouvoir le fair avec les bras plus large permet à touts de pouvoir bien effectuer cet exercice échauffement qui est tres doux et accessible.
After my Yoga Tune Up ® TT i have taken no less than 20 min to warm up my students before doing down dog. i don’t know if they noticed but i did notice how much better they did the pose. Brilliant! i think smart sequencing is safe sequencing and keeping them on the mat for years to come. Brilliant, thanks!
I can’t believe how many classes start with ‘downward dog’ as a warm up – warm up? I think not! With all of that push and pull happening in the body it is certainly no ‘resting pose.’ I love that Yoga Tune Up® has a intelligent, prepatory series to lead into it and also to allow students to see if their bodies work well with ‘the dog.’ I hope that more of us can band together and spread the news in the yoga community that downward dog is not an entry level pose nor a resting pose by any means. Just another pose that shows us how importance it is that we have strong, stable shoulders. Thanks for diving into this one.
I am at my 2nd day of Yoga Tune Up Level 1 and it’s interesting the way you explain the shoulder’s movement and the link with handstand. This takes a lot of practice to really catch the movement, but it gives a lot of stability.
Time spent in good positions is time earned for improving strength and integrity in the shoulders. Thanks for the ideas and insight.
I love your term “the icky sticky parts” I found a few of those spots with shoulder flossing. I learned how to down dog with improved shoulder positioning and muscle integration and now agree that down dog is not a resting pose.
I couldn’t agree more! just recently after many years of yoga practice and being a student in teacher training did I actually improve my down dog . This is a great pose but there definitely needs to be a lot of instructions and if necessary adjustments to remain pain free in this pose.
I like the way you instructed the shoulder flossing with the arms really wide apart. I think it’s eaiser for most students this way, and then once they realize or become more familiar with what their range of motion is, they can narrow the grip on the strap. I’ve been working with my own students on downdog and I think the tips from these blog and the YTU traiings are going to be most helpful Appreciate your information
I would have to agree with Baylea. So often, students ( and many teachers) focus on legs being straight but then ant. tilt their pelvis or shift more toward plank to compensate for decreased flexion in their shoulders. I have started to teach the supinate dolphin more and I think for many students its been eye opening.
What an awesome article. This message is an eye opener. In yoga class usually we just follow instruction and assume that we are in a safe pose and that here is where we rest after a sun salutation flow. But somehow it does not feels right sometimes. This is not a resting pose. We need to learn to listen to our bodies and get to know our body’s blind spots.
The format of your message using the spelling of Adho Mukha Svanasana is fabulous because it provides a way to link, or relate the ideas with the Sanskrit name of DD.
Downward dog, the most famous pose of all yoga styles, ironically is the pose that typically gets the least instruction. Commonly I see students neglect proper use of the shoulders during their downward dog only to hyper focus the hamstrings or spine. Jill’s shoulder warm ups and supinate dolphin pose have been a very effective tool for helping my students re-learn how their shoulders influence and optimize their downward dog.
The shoulder girdle is such a complicated is such a minefield! I recently checked the external rotation of my shoulders while pronating my forearm and low and behold, my left shoulder, no problem, my right shoulder? Well I was compensating my internally rotating my shoulder to get my palm nice and flat. My new favorite YTU pose to promote strengthen my rotator cuff and gain more proprioception, especially on the right side, is Supinate Dolphin. It’s good for me, it’s good for everybody!