Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a pose great for aligning everything along the back side of the body. It is my personal “aaahh” pose done daily. This posture does double duty using both the arms and legs to stretch the spine, hips, hamstrings, and calves while strengthening the quadriceps, ankles, shoulders, and abdominals. Often used as a “resting” pose for its energizing benefits, it is still a complex and challenging posture when done properly. This posture is great for stress relief, release of compression on the spine, and also aids in healthy digestion. Best of all, it is a world-class, super-fun, highly-creative Yoga pose for kids! Downward Facing Dog is extremely versatile! From the basic “What’s a dog say? Let’s all bark like our favorite dogs!” to Sun Salutations and using it in activities, a kids’ Yoga class just wouldn’t be complete without this posture. Try these adaptations of Downward Facing Dog with your kiddos!
Downward Dog Tunnel
The Downward Dog tunnel is a big hit when you have a larger group of kids or a family Yoga class. Everyone lines up hip to hip in Downward Dog. The person at one end (designated by the instructor) then crawls under the tunnel on their belly like a snake. When they reach the end, they reenter Downward Dog. This continues until everyone in the line has been the snake in the tunnel.
Twisted dog: lift one hand off the floor and reach back to grab the opposite ankle (Right hand to left ankle, for example). See if they can even lift their right legs while they are at it.
Turbo dog: (My son’s personal favorite) Boys love push-ups and to show how strong they can be. This variation lets them do that. From Downward Dog, begin to bend the elbows out to the sides and press back up. Kids often do plank with their hips high anyway, so this just feels natural to them. Repeat 4-5 times.
Walking the Dog: I use this one often during a Yoga story or a short story to get them warmed up. Simply instruct them to bend one knee at a time like they are walking. They can do this fast or slow depending on your story. This is a great way to invite length in the side body when done more slowly.
Happy Dog: This is very similar to donkey kicks, just named differently. Challenge the children to kick their feet up off the floor one at a time. If they are interested, you can let them see what it feels like to kick both up at the same time. You might just get some unexpected handstands if they choose that option! Happy dogs also wag their tails from side-to-side, so encourage kids to sway their high hips right and left, maybe adding in some barking a panting!
There are so many options for this posture. It is part of the Sun Salutations we begin all classes with (for a fun version of Sun Salutes, check out Kidding Around Yoga’s Sargent Salutations), it can be therapeutic for the muscles and bones, and easily written into stories and songs. I’ve seen toddlers stop temper tantrums by putting themselves into Downward Dog. It is truly a favorite posture of mine and many others! There are so many great ideas for ways to integrate this pose into your Yoga classes, gym classes, family play time, or even a daily fitness and Yoga routine…but, as with any dog, watch out for “number 2” (hehe)!