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Monday, March 30, 2009

Stretch of the Month: Downward Facing Donkey

Downward Facing Donkey is a variation of the traditional yoga pose Downward Facing Dog. You get all the benefits of Downward Facing Dog, plus even more! You'll stretch the back of your legs, lengthen the muscles around the spine, and strengthen the shoulders and arms. This pose will also help combat depression, reduce headaches, relieve menstrual pain, and calm the nervous system. Proper alignment is essential in Downward Facing Donkey to achieve an additional stretch in the calf and achilles tendon.

-Start on all 4's with your shoulders over your wrists and hips directly over your knees. Tuck your toes, press down through the palms and lift your hips up to the ceiling to form a Downward Facing Dog (your body should form a triangle shape).
-Lift the right leg up so that it is parallel to the line of your torso. Extend energy through the right heel as if you were going to step on a wall behind you. Make sure to keep the right hip in line with the left (don't allow the hips to stack). Roll the right inner thigh up to the ceiling so that the right leg is internally rotating and the toes are pointing straight down to the floor.
-Bend at the right knee without changing the position of your hips. Now the sole of your foot will be facing up to the ceiling.
-Move the foot up toward the ceiling a few inches. Make sure to keep the right hip in line with the left and the right leg internally rotated.
-Send the left heel down toward the floor.

Modifications: "What if...?"

"My wrists hurt..." Press down through the index finger, thumb, and all 10 knuckles. You can also elevate the palms of the hands by placing them on a rolled up mat. Or try the pose from the forearms.

"My back in over-twisting..." Make sure your right hip is level with the left and the right leg is internally rotated. Support this position by engaging your abdominals and keeping your shoulders square.

"My left knee is hyper-extended..." Keep the left knee soft and slightly bent, while maintaining the lengthening from sit bone to heel.