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The Secret to a Perfect Downward Dog and Plank Pose (Hint: It’s All About Alignment!)

Ashton August
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As yogis, we know there a few defining poses in yoga . . . those classic poses that we’re bound to do at least once in any given yoga sequence. Downward Dog and Plank Pose are two of those poses! Let’s talk about how to practice them safely and with proper alignment.
 
A lot of us know these poses so well we could do them in our sleep. But therein lies the problem: have you mentally checked out of your Downward Dog? Could your Plank use a little TLC?

Even if you have a solid Plank game and your Downward Dog couldn’t be more glorious, here’s a simple yet effective checklist to bring your classic poses to their highest potential.
 

How to Find Perfect Alignment in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Start in a tabletop position. Stack your shoulders directly above your wrists and hips directly above your knees.
 
This is the width between hands and feet that should be maintained in Down Dog (and Plank, but let’s not skip ahead). Tuck your toes and straighten into your arms and legs. Press your hips back and skyward into Downward Facing Dog.
 
downward-dog-alignment2
 
How to Practice Downward Dog:

  • Arms and legs should remain straight so your body looks like an upside-down V
  • Spread your fingers wide so the middle finger points to the front corners of your mat
  • Ears should be level with your biceps so that your neck is a continuation of your spine
  • Suck your abdomen in and up
  • Stretch your heels down towards the mat

 
Want even more? Check out this video tutorial of Downward Facing Dog:

 

 

How to Find Perfect Alignment in Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)

From Down Dog, shift your weight forward until your shoulders stack directly above your wrists (arms remain straight). You are in proper alignment when you can shift back and forth between Plank and Down Dog without having to move your arms or legs. Legs are now straight and you are on the balls of your feet. This should feel and look like the top of a push-up.
 
Never let your hips dip down because this will cause strain on your lower back. Never stick your booty up because that eliminates the purpose of plank – to strengthen your core!
 
plank-alignment
 
How to Practice Plank Pose:

  • Arms and legs are straight
  • Spine and torso are making a straight line like a plank of wood
  • Engage your core by sucking your abdomen in and up
  • Hips remain level with legs and spine
  • Chin is gently tucked so that your neck is a continuation of your spine

 

There You Have It! Perfect Alignment in Downward Dog and Plank Pose!

Viola! A beautiful, properly aligned Downward Facing Dog and Plank!! Proper alignment is key for a safe and effective practice. Enjoy these classic poses and rest easy knowing you’ve got great form.
 

New to yoga? Check out our 6-class series, Introduction to Vinyasa Yoga.

You’ll learn the all the basics you’ll need to walk into a yoga class with confidence.
 
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Ashton August

Ashton is a writer, yoga instructor and Editorial Director here at YogiApproved.com. If she's not bustin' out articles or producing YogiApproved videos, you can find her teaching Buti Yoga, hugging her puppies, or traveling the world with her beau. Follow her on social @ashtonaugustyoga

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