I tried doing these three expert-recommended tweaks during downward dog and it improved my yoga practice

Maximise the benefits of this mobility-boosting movement with these expert tips

A yoga instructor makes adjustments to her pupil while they do downward dog stretch
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Downward dog is one of my all-time favorite stretches. When I'm short on time, I hop on my yoga mat and do this position to stretch my body and ease tension in my lower-back.

However, I've done it so often it has become to be less of a challenge. So when I saw a video on Instagram posted by yoga instructor Mandy Froehlich that promised to make downward dog an even more effective stretch with three small tweaks, I had to try them.

I had been sitting at my desk for most of the day, so my shoulders were feeling a little tight and I had some tension in my lower-back, so I was hoping a couple of minutes of downward dog would provide some relief.

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Watch Mandy Froehlich's Instagram reel

If you've ever taken a yoga or Pilates class, you'll know that a small tweak to your positioning can drastically change how you feel. An instructor moving your shoulders or your hips by an inch can increase the difficulty of an exercise, allowing you to get further into the stretch or targeting different parts of the body.

Froehlich has three suggestions to try, targeting your shoulders, spine and legs. Each of them helped me in a different way, deepening the stretch or increasing muscle engagement. 


The first tweak Froehlich suggests is to let your shoulders get close to your ears. Rather than just hunching them up in a shrug-like gesture, she suggests you achieve this by pushing your hands down into your mat and forward slightly.⁣ 

When I first tried to do this move, I was struck by how much tension I was holding in the area. But I concentrated on pushing my weight into my hands and found that doing this allowed my shoulders to open up. 

This simple tweak then released tension in this area, along with my upper-back, which felt great. 

Woman doing a downward dog stretch.

(Image credit: Alice Porter)


Froelich also suggests finding ways to "feel your spine lengthen". To do this, you can try and lengthen along your side waist, focus on lifting up your sit bones, or move your armpits away from your hips.

I played around with her suggestions and found the easiest way to lengthen my spine was by lifting up my sit bones (found at the bottom of the pelvis) and pushing my feet into the floor. 

Again, this provided a lot of relief in my lower-back. It also helped me better distribute my weight, so I wasn't plunging it all into my wrists. 


Froelich's final suggestion is to squeeze the front of your thighs (your quad muscles) while also thinking about subtly spinning your inner thighs back.

This unexpectedly helped me engage my core, as well as my lower-body. It's not going to replace my regular full-body dumbbell workouts anytime soon, but the tweak certainly made the pose feel more like a strengthening move. 

My takeaway from all of this is that it's very easy to get lazy with your yoga poses. The simple prompts helped me get more out of my go-to yoga move, and I'll make sure I try following these suggestions when I next whip out my mat. 

If you're looking for a comprehensive flow that incorporate downward dog, try these yoga stretches for beginners, which will boost your mobility and flexibility. 

Need a new mat for your practice? Have a look through our round-up of the best yoga mats, for every kind of yogi

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.