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Downward Facing Dog Pose


Yoga Posture - Downward Facing Dog Pose

Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana may very well be the most well-known yoga pose of all the postures. Chances are you have seen or heard of this pose, even if you're not a practicing yogi. Yes, believe it or not, the posture is named after the way a dog naturally stretches.

The Sanskrit breakdown for the name is as follows, "adhas" meaning down, "mukha" meaning face, "svana" meaning dog, and of course "asana" which means posture.

Many beginners are somewhat surprised to learn that Down Dog is really a resting pose during Vinyasa Flow sequences. As a beginner, you may initially find the pose to be quite a challenge and far from a good rest! However, as you grow stronger you will certainly cherish a few moments to rest within the posture. This yoga pose is also a big part of the Sun Salutations sequence during flow style classes.

As you will see below, the benefits of this pose can be vast in nature. Some of the primary muscles used during the pose, include the glutes, traps, hamstrings, triceps and lats. Downward Dog is also considered a mild inversion that offers the same benefits as many other more advanced inversion poses.


Benefits Of The Pose:

The major benefits of Downward Dog Pose include stretching the shoulders, hamstrings and wrists. The pose can also help to strengthen the hands and wrists, strengthen and elongate the spine, it can also help blood circulation and even stretch the toes. Other benefits could include being an aid for better respiration and some may find that the pose can help with depression.

As a mild inversion, the pose also increases blood flow to brain and can help memory. Simple inversions can be super beneficial just like the more difficult inversions of headstands and handstands. One potential benefit of inversions is relief from headaches.

Many people spend their day slumped behind a desk or just practicing bad posture in general. This pose like many other yoga poses will help to stretch and elongate the spine which it badly needs after periods of poor posture.

Here's an impressive list of the muscles and areas of the body that are used when practicing Downward Dog. The shoulders, spine, arms (Triceps), wrists, abdominals, hamstrings, glutes, calves, toes, Quadriceps, and even the Rotator Cuffs. It's easy to see why many call this pose, "An All-Around Pose".

Primary Benefits:

Stretches Shoulders

Elongates The Spine

Offers Mild Inversion

Provides Hamstring Stretch

Strengthens The Spine & Arms







Prep & Follow Up Poses:

Standing Forward Bend Pose and Plank Pose are good prep postures for Downward Facing Dog. Dolphin Pose and Headstand Pose are also good follow up postures.


Modifications & Cautions:

Even though this is a relatively simple posture, there are a variety of cautions that should be kept in mind if you practice the pose.

You should avoid Downward Dog if you're in a late term pregnancy, suffer from severe Carpal Tunnel, have diarrhea, inner ear infections, or high blood pressure. It's also a good idea to avoid the pose if you have arm, shoulder or back injuries. Make sure to recover from any of these injuries before returning to the pose.

Because the pose is a great hamstring stretch, you should avoid the pose if you are experiencing tight hamstrings or tight back muscles.

A simple modification in the pose is to allow for a slight bend in the knees.

However, if you would like to make the pose more challenging, you can drop your forearms to ground which will transition you into what most call Dolphin Pose. Dolphin is basically a much more difficult variation of Down Dog.

You may also try wrapping a strap around your upper arms and pressing the arms outward for a better arm challenge. The strap can be used in the same way for the legs by looping it around the thighs and pressing the legs outward while in the pose.

Major Tips:

Many students thrive to attain flat feet but it's not required! As a matter of fact, don't hesitate to bend your knees to protect your hamstrings if needed.

Remember to relax the neck and head! Spread your fingers! Be sure to allow the weight to spread evenly across your hands during the pose.

Keep lifting the hips toward the sky while pushing the earth away from you. Make sure to keep your feet hips width apart, if needed you can spread the feet a little wider to help with balance.

Some may find a towel placed under hands will help with wrist issues, it may also help to prevent slipping on the mat.




Step-By-Step Instructions:

You should begin the pose on your hands and knees. Gently move your hands so that they're underneath your shoulders, then align your knees beneath your hips.

Take the time to spread your fingers wide on both hands with your middle finger pointing forward.

Allow your weight to spread evenly across both hands, relax your back and try to allow your forearms to rotate inward as you rotate your arms and shoulders outward.

Now you're ready to rise into the pose.

Breathe out, tuck your toes, engage your belly and core pulling your navel toward your spine. Gently lift your pelvis toward the sky away from the earth. Keeping your feet hip's width apart, slowly straighten your legs being careful not to lock the knees. Feel free to keep the knees bent if needed.

Your body should now be in the shape of an upside down "V". Keep your hips away from you, try to keep a straight spine and keep your body extended, press the shoulder blades toward the spine.

Rotate the upper arms toward one another, keep your fingertips pressing into the mat.

Try to lengthen your spine and slowly allow the heals to lower toward the earth. It is not required to attain flat feet.

Allow you head to relax as you gaze between your legs and feet. Keep pressing the earth away from you and keep your hips high.

Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths or longer as your practice advances, remember this pose is considered a resting posture so you can hang out in the pose.

On exhale, slowly bend the knees and lower them back to the mat on all fours.