Downward-Facing Dog is considered one of the most fundamental of all yoga postures. It is often used between other postures as a transitional posture to keep the flow of the practice. It is also considered a "resting pose".
There are many benefits to Downward Dog. This posture stretches the palms, chest, back, hamstrings, calves and feet. It relieves low back discomfort and improves digestion. Strengthening the arms, wrists, legs and torso, down dog also energizes the body. Most of all it improves focus and stimulates the mind.
Instructions for getting into Down Dog are as follows: Come to all fours, placing hands directly under shoulders, knees and feet hip width apart. Spread your fingers wide. Inhale, curl your toes under and draw your shoulder blades back. Exhale, lift your hips and press back through your heels, drop your head. Press your tailbone high and open your chest, pressing your chest towards your feet. Keep your arms straight, press down through your whole hand (including thumb and index finger). Look towards your feet, shake your head side to side to loosen shoulders and neck. Pedal your heels toward the floor one at a time to get more stretch in your calves. Breathe deeply into your back body.
Align your ankles, your knees, and your hip joints so that the weight of your body is carried evenly through your legs. Move your pelvis, torso, and arms, feeling their skeletal alignment, and place them as best you can in one direct line from sits bones to fingertips. Center your ribs, waist long. Close your eyes if you need to and feel the pose. The closer you get to alignment, the more even your hands and feet will be on the mat.
Some people may have problems with their wrists and find it hard to place weight on them. By placing the forearms on the floor instead of hands is beneficial. Also, bending the knees can be beneficial to those who tend to round their back in the pose. It is better to have bent knees than a rounded back.
Once you have the pose, hold it for several breaths feeling the pose making adjustments as needed. When you are ready to come out of the pose, walk your feet between your hands and come into a forward bend. Slowly roll up to standing. Breathe in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).