I remember the first 3 times I tried yoga I hated It! Downward dog was "hard" and I didn't understand why they would say, "Rest in downward dog." In my head, I was like, "What?! This is definitely not what I call resting.. my arms are getting tired! Why are we still here.?!" It gets better. I promise.
Downward Dog pose has been in almost every active yoga class that I have been to. If it is early in the practice, I don't like to rush to find stillness so soon. I like to explore, discover, play in my first downward dog and I invite the yogis in the room to do the same. I heard Michelle Tamblyn-Sabo call it a "downward dance" and it seem to stick in my own practice and in my classes as a teacher.
Start by having hands reach out in front on the mat or floor shoulder width apart or wider. Tuck your toes underneath you with your hips back close to your heels. Push into your hands and feet to lift the hips higher than your heart, and your heart higher than your head. Pedal out the feet. Lower one heel to the mat first and then the other. Feel the calf muscle stretch, and simply create awareness of how the whole body arrives on the mat, physically, emotionally, mentally and energetically.
I like to massage the mat with my hands and feet. I sway my hips and ribs side to side. I like to visualize being like a tiger or tigress intentionally moving through the jungle on a hunt. I find this quite sensual as I find different areas in my body to send breath to.
When finding the downward dog pose that is steady and still, ensure that it does not feel stiff. Have the intention to work towards finding a long spine, versus straight legs. If your knees stay bent that is fine. It is better to have bent knees than to have a curvy spine that may put strain in the shoulders and or neck. Allow your heart to melt towards the earth and not your nose. Sometimes I see the yogi's nose is reaching for the mat and there is a break in the neck. Feel the flow from the tailbone to the crown. Roll the shoulders down and back, activating your latissimus dorsi muscle so the neck can be free, and eventually it will feel like a resting pose.
Below is a video of the downward dog pose. I invite you to press play and come play! Namaste.