Popularly known as “down dog”, Downward-Facing Dog is a posture that promotes strength and gives you a much-needed stretch that energizes and rejuvenates your mind and body.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
When translating Adho Mukha Svanasana to downward-facing dog, Adho means downward, Mukha means face and Svana means dog.
Commonly practiced in the in the Surya Namaskar sequence, this particular Asana is not only an excellent full-body stretch, but a rest pose to perform in between two difficult asanas.
Downward-Facing Dog Directions:
Follow these simple steps to help you master the downward-facing dog technique:
Lie down on your stomach with your palms on the ground and in line with your ears. Your legs should be by each other and extended straight out with your toes pointing down and your heels faced towards the ceiling.
As you exhale, curl your toes in and gently lift your hips and knees off the ground and towards the ceiling. Slowly try to stretch your heels on to the floor and if not possible, as close to the floor as you can and walk only your feet forward. Your body should resemble an upside-down “V”.
Firmly push your palms into the floor and straighten out your spine while lengthening your tailbone. Keep your head in between your upper arms making sure not to let it hang. Hold this pose for 1–3 minutes and lower your body down to sit on your knees/
Muscles Engaged: Traps, lats, glutes, hamstrings, deltoids, rotator cuff, rhomboids.
Downward-Facing Dog Variations:
The three-legged Downward-Facing Dog
Once you are in downward-facing dog position, use your hips and extend one leg straight up, back and out. Repeat on the other side.
The Downward-Facing Dog hip-opening variation.
Modification: From the three-legged dog pose, bend the knee of the extended leg, and curve your heal towards the other as far as you can. Repeat on the other side.
The revolved Downward-Facing Dog
Modification: Once you are in downward-facing dog position, gently turn your head towards the right armpit, and touch your left hand to the right calf. Repeat on the other side.
For a partner workout, try the double downward-facing dog, as demonstrated in this video of Workout From Within by host, Jeff Halevy:
Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog:
Some of the added benefits of downward facing dog include:
- Strengthens the arms, shoulders, and legs
- Improves blood circulation in the body
- Stimulates the nerves of the scalp and heightens the circulation of blood and oxygen to the head
- Alleviates menstrual discomfort
- Improves the immune system
- The focus on breathing and stretching of the cervical spine and neck induces relaxation
Downward-facing dog is especially recommended for individuals who suffer from:
- Back pain
- Constipation or Piles
- DOMs or sore muscles from exercises
Downward-Facing Dog Precautions:
Like most exercise, consult your doctor before engaging in any type of workouts or yoga poses if you suffer from any medical conditions or are injured.
Avoid downward-facing dog pose under the following conditions:
- Experience carpal tunnel syndrome
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- In your second or third trimester of pregnancy (best to consult your health care physician)
- Experience sharp pains or spasms while performing the pose
Downward-Facing Dog Follow-Up Poses:
You can finish the routine and bring your heart rate back to normal by performing the Child’s Pose (Balasana) after downward-facing dog.
Downward-Facing Dog Recap:
Things to keep in mind:
- Make sure to perform this position with the right posture so as to avoid any strains or muscle pulls.
- Your hands and feet should be firmly planted on the ground to provide adequate support to your body and help you stay balanced and centered.
- Keep your core tight and engaged as you lift your body in order to reap the toning benefits of this pose.
- Focus on lengthening your spine to make a more well-defined V shape with your body. Your form will improve over time.
- Focus on slow and steady inhales and exhales, especially when you hold the pose.
1. How long should you hold the downward-facing dog pose?
This asana can be held for about 1–3 minutes.
2. How to perform the downward-facing dog pose?
By following the steps mentioned in the article above, you can perform the downward-facing dog pose and improve your posture over time.
Updated by Siya Rajan on 05/28/2018
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Editors, Y. (2007, August 28). Downward-Facing Dog. Retrieved from https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/downward-facing-dog