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December 6, 2012

One of the most popular poses that you’ll practice in yoga classes today is Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svasana). Although it might look easy, as a beginner you might feel some discomfort, especially if you’re not doing the posture right.

When I first started practicing yoga regularly, I had some wrist pain and even some of my fingers started to go numb. I later realized it was because I had too much weight in my upper body.

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But if you learn how to get into the pose properly, it can actually become extremely calming. Just like most inversions, Downward Dog is good for circulation, activates the lymphatic system, and can have a positive impact on mental functioning by increasing the flow of blood to the brain. Overall, it’s a great pose to practice, even if you have to start with a few simple modifications.

So here are 5 tips to help you use more of the lower body to make Downward Dog a little easier:

1. Start with wrists shoulder distance apart (or wider) and step your feet as wide as the mat. Send the weight into the legs by pressing into the base of each finger, especially the thumb and forefinger. Straighten the arms and hug the outer upper arms (triceps) in towards each other.

2. If your heels don’t touch the floor, don’t worry. To warm up the hamstrings and calves, bend the knees and alternate pressing one heel towards the floor at a time. Remember to breathe.

3. To avoid hunching in the back, lift yourself up onto both toes and bend both knees, sending the weight back into the legs. Take your torso towards the thighs to create a nice long line from the fingertips, up the arms and along the spine.

4. Eventually step the feet hip distance apart, begin to straighten the legs and engage the quads. Again, if your heels don’t touch the floor it’s perfectly okay. Keep sending the weight up and out of the upper body and into the legs.

5. Breathe here. Relax your neck and head. And if you ever need a break, lower your knees, untuck your toes and take child’s pose.

Keep practicing. Like anything, with patience and perseverance you will see improvement.

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Gigi Yogini
Gigi Yogini
Registered Yoga Teacher

Gigi Yogini is a E-RYT 500 certified yoga instructor and body positive advocate based in Santa Monica, California. She encourages individuals to strengthen their mind-body relationship, both on and off the yoga mat. Listed as one of Origin Magazine's “Most Beautiful Women Portraying Strength, Passion and Vision" and Athleta's "100 Women to Watch in Wellness," Gigi is committed to promoting confidence and courage through her blog YOGAudacious - Celebrating courageous women.

To practice yoga online with Gigi, take one of her classes at (use the code: GigiFreeMonth). For daily inspiration, join her on Facebook and Instagram or join Gigi's mailing list to get a motivational affirmation in your inbox every Monday.