Downward Dog: arguably one of the most famous yoga positions where you create a “V-shape” with your body, is favored by many yoga teachers and practitioners for its many benefits. These include the strengthening of various muscle groups and joints, the reconnection to your core, and the lowering of high blood pressure.

Are You Doing It Wrong?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to how to actually perform downward dog. Read on to learn downward dog 101 and all about the common downward dog myths. 

A typical downward dog position.

1) Should You Bend Your Knees?

Perhaps the biggest misconception is the belief that your knees must remain straight to achieve perfect form. This belief ties into a greater misconception of yoga for beginners: there is only one way to perform any yoga pose.

In fact, the only “right” yoga pose is the one that best serves your body. If straightening your legs causes discomfort and an improper form, you won’t get anything out of the exercise. Remember, many experienced yoga practitioners bend their knees while performing downward dog and still receive the same benefits as those who don’t bend their knees.

2) Should Your Heels Touch the Ground? 

In general, you may have noticed that among the many “downward dog for beginners” videos, the demonstrators’ heels touch the ground in some, but not in the others. The truth is that some individuals’ heels won’t be able to touch the ground due to tendons in the foot, bone structure, or overall flexibility – but know that it is not necessary for the pose. 

3) How Wide Do Your Fingers Need to Be Spread?

How far your fingers should be spread is a big debate in the “how to downward dog” community.

While some yoga instructors suggest that the fingers should be spread as wide as possible to evenly distribute one’s weight, the others instruct the complete opposite — the closer the fingers, the less pressure on the important nerves in our hands.

Finally, others believe that a gentle, light spread of the fingers is a happy medium, alleviating tension while ensuring good balance. Novices to the downward dog may want to opt for this last option. 

4) Does Your Downward Dog Need to Be Straight Every Time?

Many yogis make little mistakes during their first downward dog pose (which is completely understandable). These include shortening the distance between the hands and feet or drooping the head too low.

All of these mistakes can be rectified by ensuring that your head is aligned with your back and your legs. When done properly, your body will form into that perfect V-shape, which is why it’s important to have a straight body every time. If you find yourself slipping, consider swapping mats or finding a more stable surface. 

5) Should You Pull Your Shoulders Up or Down? 

“Scapulohumeral rhythm” is an important phrase you may hear at some point during your yoga journey. This phrase refers to the lifting of the shoulder blades when you move your arms upward.

When performing downward dog, it’s quite common to feel tension in the shoulder or neck initially, especially for beginners. To relieve the pressure and regain proper form, bring your shoulders away from your ears or “broaden the shoulders.” Pulling your shoulders in a downward motion can disrupt your form.

Where Can You Learn Yoga?

So you’ve got the yoga pose foundations down for downward dog but would still like to learn some more yoga tips and tricks to master the discipline. Fortunately, MyLifeWell offers a variety of ways for you to continue to develop your yoga skills, including:

  • On-demand classes: MyLifeWell offers dozens of yoga-focused classes ranging in length from 10 minutes to an entire hour. Each video introduces a specific yoga technique with a wide range of instructors sharing their expert tips and tricks. 
  • One-on-one training and coaching: If you’d like a more personal yoga experience, MyLifeWell also offers one-on-one yoga teaching that can focus on any part of the yoga experience, from mastering one specific pose to developing a fuller understanding of what yoga is all about.

Virtual Yoga Class
Digital yoga classes have gained popularity over the past year.

Check out MyLifeWell’s website to see all the other ways you can master yoga, regardless of whether it’s the downward dog or any other pose!