Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) practice will warm, strengthen and stretch the entire body. You can use it as a transitional pose (among other poses), or as a full-body stretch on your own.
Try a few rounds of downward facing dog during your day to increase blood flow and energy while calming your mind! You can get benefits from all areas of your life, even from the mat.
The posture name comes from the Sanskrit words:
- adhas (अधस्) meaning ‘down’,
- mukha (मुख) meaning ‘face’,
- śvāna (श्वान) meaning ‘dog’,
- āsana (आसन) meaning ‘posture’.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) looks like a dog when he leans forward. There are many amazing benefits of this asana that make you extremely important to practice it every day. The best part is, even a beginner yogi can do easily this pose.
|Name:||Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Dog Pose, Down dog|
|Sanskrit Name:||अधोमुखश्वानासन, Adho Mukha Svanasana|
|English Name:||Downward Facing Dog, Downward Dog Pose, Down dog|
|IAST:||Adho Mukha Śvānāsana|
|Counterpose:||Child’s Pose (Balasana)|
|Type:||Stretch, strength, forward bend|
|Drishti:||(1) At the floor|
(2) Between your feet
|Stretch:||Arches of the foot, Calf, Hamstring, Shoulder, Arm|
|Strength:||Legs and arms|
|Muscle Worked:||Entire body|
|Regime Note:||Consult a doctor before starting this posture regime|
Benefits of Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
It stretches the hamstrings and calves and strengthens the arms, legs and back. It can help relieve back pain. As a mild reversal, it acts opposite to the normal forces on your spine and brings more blood flow to your brain. The pose also strengthens the deep abdominal muscles which helps to stabilize the spine.
- Improves digestion
- Relieves insomnia, menstrual and menopausal discomfort, and low back pain
- Strengthens the arms, legs, and torso
- Stretches the palms, chest, back, hamstrings, calves, and feet
- Energizes the body
- Improves focus
- Develops willpower
- Stimulates the mind
- Relieves stress and mild anxiety
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is known for relaxing muscles. Attempting to stretch your hands while performing this pose increases tension in the tendons of the muscles, and in response to stress, the spinal cord signals the muscles to relax. Stretching through poses releases endorphins that help to relax your body and mind.(science behind)
Step by step Instructions of Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Come to all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers evenly and root down into the floor through all four corners of your hands. Rooting down means to extend downward energetically like a tree sending down roots into the earth. Inhale and draw muscu-larly from your hands up into your shoulders. Keep-ing your arms steadfast and straight, exhale and draw your shoulder blades onto your back.
- Wrist. Line up the creases of your wrists so they are parallel with the front of your mat (or if not using a mat, with where your mat would be).
- Elbow. Keep the inside creases of your elbows facing each other.
- Hip. Walk your knees back slightly behind your hips.
Maintaining the action of step 1, inhale, lift your hips, and lengthen back through your spine and hips.
- Wrist. Root down firmly into the floor through your hands.
- Elbow. Keep your arms straight by anchoring your hands down and drawing the muscles up your arms from your wrists into your shoulders.
- Knee. Separate your knees as wide apart as your ankles.
Straighten your legs to come into the full pose.
- Lengthen from your heart down through your arms and up to your tailbone.
- Press your thigh bones back into your hamstrings.
- Keeping the toes spreading, root from your tailbone down through your legs to bring your heels toward the floor.
Hold for a few breaths. Release and lower yourself into Child’s Pose.
Safety and Precautions
It is best to consult a professional trainer or medical practitioner before performing this asana.
Avoid practicing this asana if you are suffering:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- High blood pressure
- A detached retina
- A dislocated shoulder
- Weak eye capillaries
Pregnant women should practice this asana with caution. It is best to consult your physician before joining the practice.
Modification and alteration of Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Since this asana is performed so frequently during Ashtanga, Vinayasa and Power Yoga classes, it is important to learn how to do it properly to avoid injury and fatigue.
Do these simple changes to find the variation that works best for you:
- To warm the hips and start stretching, bend one knee while keeping the other leg straight. Change sides and repeat five times.
- To correctly know the spine-length aspect of the downward dog, first bend your knees to the balls of your feet and pose. Bring your calves parallel to the mat and raise your sitting bones up and back. Press your hips towards the wall behind you. Then, slowly start straightening your legs.
- For greater challenge, raise your right foot as high as possible, reaching the heel. While raising your right leg, extend your left hand behind you. Rest on your low back with the back of your hand. Repeat on the other side.
- For the restorative version of the pose, place a yoga block under your head. Release all neck tension. Hold for five minutes.
- Place a yoga block between your inner thighs to know the movement of internal rotation. Hold the block with your thighs and push it to the wall behind you as you hold the pose.
Preparatory poses before Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
1. How to do Dhanurasana?
- Lie on your stomach on the ground. Rest for a few seconds with a long breath. Bend your legs backwards to hold your ankles. It makes your body in the shape of a bow. In this position, the entire weight of your body falls on the stomach.
- Hold it for 20 to 30 seconds and then start exhaling and then take a deep breath. Remember that during the final posture position, only the pelvic region and abdomen touch the ground.
- Repeat the process only 4 to 5 times to get all the benefits of this yoga position.
2. How to do Dhandasana?
- Sit with legs spread out in front of you. Place your hands on the floor next to your hips.
- Flex your feet and extend through the heel. Attach your thighs and actively press your seated bones.
- Pull your lower abdomen in and up.
- Slide shoulder blades back and down along your spine. Bring your shoulder blades to each other, spreading the collar bones.
- Lower your chin back and down and keep the base of your neck soft.
- Stay in this posture for 5 to 15 breaths. To maintain this posture, keep your stomach muscles entangled.
Follow up poses after the Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
- Chaturanga Dandasana
- Urdva mukha svanasana
1. How to do Ardha Pincha Mayurasana?
- Start with a table position. Lower your forearms to the floor.
- Raise the hips up towards the ceiling. Keeping your palms on the surface of the floor, spread your fingers forward.
- Force the forearms, fingers and palms on the ground and press the hips up and back.
- This keeps the spine straight and long, reaching high through the tailbone.
- Push the heel into the floor. Do not bend the knees. Keep feet straight.
- The head and neck should hang freely from the shoulders.
- Place your forehead to touch the ground.
- Maintain the above position for a few minutes.
- Upon release bend the knees and lower hips in a table pose.
2. How to do Chaturanga Dandasana?
- Keep your wrists directly under your shoulders and bend them slightly in your elbows.
- When exhaling, bend your elbows and lower your shoulders so that they are at the same height as your elbows.
- Tightly squeeze your elbows towards your body.
- Keep your upper body and feet a few inches above the floor.
- Raise or raise your head slightly.
- Wider your chest and upper back.
- With one breath, press back into a plank or downward facing dog. Or, keep your knees down and relax in the hair posture.
3. How to do Urdva mukha svanasana?
- Start lying on the top of your feet on the ground, your stomach with legs extended behind you. Place your hands on your mat right in front of your torso.
- Press your feet firmly into the ground to engage your feet.
- Push your chest forward and up, then press into your palms to lift the chest and head up.
- Straighten your arms and continue pressing into the top of your feet. If your hips rest on the ground, bend your elbows to bend.
- Pull your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your gaze forward.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths, then release the dog back onto the ground or down.
Downward Facing Dog is the poster pose for yoga. The reason it has become the most famous posture is that it is so important in contemporary practice.
You can learn this first pose with starting a yoga practice. This is mostly done several times during yoga classes, especially in Vinayasa Yoga. It acts as a transitional posture and can be a resting position. Downward Dog is one of the Surya namaskar (sun salutation) sequences.
It is easy to know if you are doing this asana correctly. If you feel that your joints are stressed, or you are unstable, then you need to check your alignment. Start, and make sure your knees are right under your hips, and your hands are under your shoulders. Also, make sure that the creases on your wrist and elbow align with your mat.
Initially, the shoulder release may be difficult to correct. To get this right you can practice against the wall. Stand with your feet approximately three feet away from the wall (hip distance). Make sure that you are facing the wall. Then, place your hands on the wall, and run them down until they reach the level of your torso. Your arms should be parallel to the floor.
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Written by Amit Kumar. He is a certified Yoga Instructor; Diploma in sports & exercise and nutrition; Diploma in fitness and weight loss; Diploma in Nutrition; Diploma in Nutrition, Food, Science and Menu Planning.