In a yoga class, you may have heard that Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a resting pose. However, for some, it’s a nightmare. Is that you? If you are feeling any sensations of discomfort or intense pain, it’s time to make some changes. Our bodies are a very complex structure, and the shoulder joint has considerable freedom of movement, yet also a higher possibility for risk of injury.
The key here is to pay attention to the feedback your body is telling you. Yoga is to yoke, union, to connect the body and mind/mind and body. So when Downward Facing Dog isn’t feeling good for you, pay attention.
When the moment is available, inform the teacher so you can receive some guidance or suggestions with alignment so the pose could feel better for YOUR body. Also, note, if the whole class is given instructions that do not feel good for you, change it, make adjustments where the pose feels better so that you can sustain being in the pose. Or come out of the pose sooner, you can rest in Child's pose (Balasana) with your knees together, arms down by your side.
I often see example #2 in my public yoga classes, due to a tight posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings) or more.
Besides the anatomical structural basis that can create discomfort or even pain when elevating the arm; muscle mass can contribute to limited movement in range and degree, as with anything, yoga is not one size fits all. Adjusting for your body is essential.
I hear some of my students wanting to ‘muscle through’ whatever is ailing them to stay in the pose the way it ‘should be’. With the shoulder joint being such a complex area, I wouldn’t ever suggest that thought process, especially if there is a high degree of pain. There could be a much deeper issue going on that only an x-ray or MRI could determine the problem.
In this video, I offer alignment suggestions/adjustments help your Downward Facing Dog feel better.
Remember, if something is persisting, it’s time to seek medical advice so that whatever discomfort or pain will not continue to get worse. From a personal note, who has dealt with a considerable array of injuries, I do not recommend putting off visiting your doctor. Not only could the possible discomfort/pain turn into a deeper (maybe even more serious issue —ie: surgery), the whole (recovery/healing) process takes time away from your daily life, activities and personal practice.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one online, the video tips are suggestions that you can try to see if they help you. If nothing improves, seek medical advice.
ps…if you found this article helpful, I'd love to hear about it, please comment here. I’d love for you to share with others!
Sending Metta! xo Janel