One of the most common reasons that many men shy away from vinyasa yoga is because they think they aren't flexible enough for downward facing dog. This article will hopefully shine some light on the purpose of the pose, how to get the most out of it, and how to work around your 'seemingly inflexible' hamstrings. A properly aligned downward facing dog first tackles shoulder mobility and lat engagement, THEN hamstring flexibility. Here are some common issues that men (and people with lots of lean muscle mass) tend to have during this very common yoga posture.
Issue # 1 - Not knowing where my hands and feet should be on the mat:
Typically, men will want to 'achieve' reaching the heels down toward the floor first in downdog. So what ends up happening is they will shorten the distance between hands and feet to make heels touch. Don't worry about heels touching right away, focus first on the proper alignment. Check your distance between hands and feet by coming into a hollow body plank, with shoulders stacked over wrists and heels over balls of feet. Then without changing the distance between hands and feet, press the hips up to an inverted V position. Make certain that the shoulders drift atleast a foot behind the hands (as pictured).
a prayer position during the forward fold portion of the exercise (which originates from the pelvis tipping forward with a long spine). Then the Clubbell is pressed up to two handed torch overhead, as the trunk lifts up. Essentially, you are loading your hamstrings, and the lever arm is your torso.
This CBY exercise repeatedly lengthens the hamstrings for several reps, which is great for increasing range of motion. By holding the Clubbell in line with spine, and going to end range of motion with quadricep and hip muscle activation, you are training your nervous system to collaborate with the prime movers and the stabilizers to achieve the movement. Furthermore, the pelvis tilts forward in conjunction with inner core activation (i.e. flat back) creates lasting motor pattern of going into a stretch with BOTH control and strength.
When training downdog, try and incorporate this same sense of tilting the pelvis forward, keeping a slight bend the the knees and engaging the quads to stretch the hamstrings, try holding for 5 breaths in and out by the nose.
Every BODY may look a little different in Downdog, and that's OK!
Modifying your downdog, and training for dynamic flexibility will surely help you improve your flexibility practice. From mobility comes power, so take your mobility training seriously. Check out more flexibility specific exercises and flows in Clubbell Yoga Primal 12. Check out our upcoming scheduled events for Seminars and Intro Classes.
Engaged in the movement toward more functional fitness. Mama, entrepreneur, leader, mentor, and co-creator of Clubbell Yoga.
Co-Creator of Clubbell Yoga, Movement & Performance Specialist, Head Coach at RMAX International