Why So Many Downward-Facing Dogs?

So, I have a question about yoga I’ve long puzzled over but never formally asked.

Why do most yoga classes place so much emphasis on the downward-facing dog asana?

I like doing the downward-facing dog, and it’s obviously a good way to develop arm strength, but it seems to dominate classes in a way other asanas don’t, and it’s a safe bet that in most yoga classes one will probably spend more time in that posture than any other active one.

Are there unique benefits to the pose? Or is it just a matter of yogis liking a good woof? :wink: :dog:

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I am betting one of the reasons that it appears so frequently is because it can be a resting pose between flow sequences. It took me quite some time to see it as a “resting” pose but it did eventually happen. I will be curious to see a reply from one of our teachers!

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Yes, I’m just now getting to the point where it can be a respite from some of the tougher flows! :slight_smile:

Very interested in what the teachers say also.

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I’ll also be interested to hear what Fiji says. For me, downward dog is a good “setting” pose for me to set up proper arm and shoulder alignment, along with a great way to stretch out the spine and hamstrings. It’s also a great resting pose for me from flows. It helped me reset, breathe, remember to relax the head, neck, and jaw.

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Yes! After I responded to the original poster, I found myself paying more attention to downdogs in my practice, and it occurred to me that the pose was way more than an appreciated opportunity to rest. It was a touchstone I returned to over and over for all the benefits you mentioned.

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Hi All, I am late to the downward dog party!!!

There are many benefits to this pose, mainly creating space in the back or westside of the body. The benefits are in opening the hamstrings, which when tight can mess with our lower back, and in creating some traction in the spine which is usually in a state of compression when we sit or stand.

It is also an opportunity to rest, be still when in a flow, and a way to transition between the two sides of a sequence.

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Interesting question I have been thinking abut recently too I started doing yoga 30 years ago and the classes then had WAY less vinyasa and downward dog in them. I thought my memory was just bad but I went back and looked at some of the VHS tapes I did regularly (yes I still have them!!) and my memory was correct. In the dozen or so classes from varied teachers there were some sun salutations but it was a small part of the general practice. So yoga has definitely changed in our culture as it has become more popular. I personally do not like so many downward facing dogs. My hamstrings are super flexible so the stress is not there but in my shoulders. I have short arms and wonder if this may not make it feel off balance for me. Trying to make this better/easier by following Fiji and Rachels advice but not helping… I just dont like that much DD so I avoid the heavy flow classes.

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Yes, the level of emphasis on downward-facing dogs does seem like a fairly recent development in yoga practice, from what I know. (And I’m not a scholar, to be clear.) My very layman’s understanding is that older texts usually identified either the full lotus, or else inversions like headstands as the most important postures, to the extent one asana was ever considered such.

I wonder if there’s a been a conscious movement among some teachers - or maybe just an unconscious shift - towards sun salutations and downward dogs, with their strong active movements and the decompression of the spine Fiji mentioned being seen as especially appropriate for modern practitioners?