Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Modifications for Downward-Facing Dog

Thursday, 08 March 2018

Is downward-facing dog your friend?  Some mama's love the feel of this stretch, while others find it bothers their wrists, shoulders or neck.  Maybe they have less-than-flexible hamstrings and instead of a nice release for the legs and low back, down-dog feels constricting.

Many fitness-pros have suggestions for what you should and shouldn't do during pregnancy. While there are safe guidelines to follow that protect you and your baby, only YOU know what feels right in your body. And your body will tell you

I craved the stretch of down-dog during pregnancy.  The release it gave my low back felt wonderful.  I also enjoyed the fact that it was a safe pose that continued to keep my arms strong.  I've heard of some experts advising women to leave out this pose completely during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. You may come across information that seems confusing. Kelly Newsome Georges helps to share a little clarity here in herblog post at RitualCare.com

I echo the advice from Kelly, listen to your body and let your intuition guide the way. 

If you're moving through your yoga flow and your body is telling you something doesn't feel right, try a few modifications. 

One goal in down-dog is to feel the energy equally divided between the upper and lower body. If you feel like most of the weight is on your arms, your downward-facing dog may look like this... too much weight distributed to the upper body, rounded spine, constricted feeling for shoulders and neck. 

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One quick fix here is to slightly bend the knees, keeping your hands pressing firmly into the mat, shift your chest towards your thighs as your arms straighten and the spine lengthens.  This brings more energy to the legs so that the pose feels more balanced.

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"Puppy dog" is a favorite alternative to down-dog in the yoga classes I teach.

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  • From table top (hands and knees) with your knees grounded, lower your elbows to the ground.
  • Keep hips lifted.
  • Melt heart towards the ground and allow your head to hang heavy. 
  • Enjoy the stretch for the chest and shoulders and release for the pelvis and low back.
  • Breathe.

..........

"Dolphin pose" is gentler on the wrists but can be a deep stretch for the shoulders.

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  • From table top, lower your elbows to the ground.
  • Keep elbows shoulder width, fingers pointing to the top of your mat.
  • Tuck your toes, lifting hips to the sky.
  • Legs can straighten or knees can remain slightly bent.
  • Allow your head to drop, releasing the neck. 
  • Breathe.

 ..........

"Child's pose" is always a lovely option.  You might alternate between down-dog and child's pose throughout your practice.  Remember to continue to listen to your body, it is wise and will guide you towards an energetic or gentler expression. 

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  • From table top, shift your knees open wider than your hips.
  • Bring your toes to touch behind you.
  • Walk your hands forward.
  • Allow your hips to sink down towards your heels.
    • Note: you may keep your hips lifted if this feels better in your body.
  • As you release your chest towards the ground, allow your head to rest on the mat, your palms or fists stacked on top of each other.
  • Breathe.

Remember, mama, our bodies are changing constantly during pregnancy and postpartum.  What feels good today might not tomorrow. Continue to honor and respect your body throughout your journey.

If you're looking for more guidance on your mat, I'd be honored for you to try my Pre/Postnatal Yoga DVD's. They are filled with good moves, good vibes, and a whole lot of mama love from start to finish!

Because you are amazing, and I want you to know, you were made for this.

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