Trying to listen to alignment cues in a yoga class and understanding the right positioning can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re a complete beginner and simply trying to just keep up!

That’s why every month I will break down a pose, show you how to get into it safely, highlight its benefits and offer one or two top tips.

This month, we are focusing on One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog, also referred to as Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit.

Simply a little extension on Downward Facing Dog, the one legged version holds all the benefits of the base pose whilst adding the element of fun with an interesting balancing aspect!

Establishing the Foundation

Establishing the Foundation of the Pose

  1. Begin by moving into Downward Facing Dog (you can find step by step instructions here
     
  2. Make sure that your feet are hip distance apart, and the hands are shoulder distance apart.
     
  3. Look at the crease at your wrists and make sure they are parallel with the top edge of the mat.
     
  4. Spread your fingers wide with the middle finger pointing towards the top of the mat.
     
  5. Distribute the weight evenly across the palms, pressing a little more into the base of the index finger and thumb to relieve any strain from the outer wrists.
     
  6. Encourage the chest towards the thighs, keeping the gaze at the navel.
     
  7. Gently press the sitting bones of the buttocks back and up while lengthening through the spine, moving the hips back and up.
     
  8. When you reach maximum spinal extension, maintain the position of the upper body as you begin to press the heels towards the floor, straightening the legs only as much as is possible.
     
  9. Firm the outer arms, rotate the shoulders externally so that the upper arms move away from the ears, the biceps face forwards and the shoulder blades almost wrap under the armpits.
     
  10. Press actively into the base of the index fingers.
     
  11. Let the crown of the head move closer to the floor to give length to the neck but don’t let it hang.

Moving into the Pose

Moving into the Pose

  1. Slowly begin to raise the right leg off the floor making sure that the movement is coming from the top of the front right thigh muscle rather than simply kicking up the foot.
     
  2. Try to maintain the alignment of your Downward Facing Dog pose as you engage the front thigh muscle, lift your right leg and press out through the heel with the right foot flexed.
     
  3. The right hip tends to want to lift a little higher as the leg is raised however, this can cause the pelvis to tilt sideways and the spine to twist and/or shorten.
     
  4. Counteract this by raising the right leg only as far as it can go while keeping the pelvis and the shoulders level.
     
  5. Spread your weight evenly through the shoulders and arms as there can be a tendency to lean more into the left hand.


Maintaining the Pose

  1. Try to keep the arms and legs active as you ‘rest’ in this pose.
     
  2. Keep the focus on the breath and stay here for a couple of breaths.
     
  3. Slowly lower the right leg and repeat on the other side, following the same alignment cues.

Completing the Pose 

  1. Inhale and, as you exhale, look up between the hands.
     
  2. Walk, step or hop your feet towards your hands at the top of the mat into a forward fold.
     
  3. Slowly curl yourself up to standing, head last.

Completing the Pose

Benefits of the Pose

  1. Stretches the arches, calves, hamstrings, hands and shoulders
  2. Strengthens the arms and legs
  3. Improves balance
  4. Can be calming

Don’t do it if…

  • You suffer from severe wrist pain or Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (maybe try it with your hands against a wall at hip level)
     
  • In the late stages of pregnancy
     
  • If you experience high blood pressure or headache – support your head with a bolster or block with the ears level between the arms

This pose can you used as part of a ‘flow’.  For example, it can bridge the gap from moving from Downward Facing Dog into a low lunge and ultimately a high lunge or Warrior I as you raise the leg, then bend the right knee and bring it towards tour nose as you sweep it under the torso to place the foot flat on the mat between the hands.

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