One of the most recognized yoga poses in the West, Downward-Facing Dog — Adho Mukha Svanasana (Ah-doh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-uh-nuh) — is a standing pose and mild inversion that builds strength while stretching the whole body. It’s named after the way dogs naturally stretch their entire bodies! Downward-Facing Dog (also sometimes called “Downward Dog” or just “Down Dog”) is an essential component of Sun Salutations and is often done many times during a yoga class. It can be used as a transitional pose, a resting pose, and a strength-builder.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
Do not practice Downward-Facing Dog if you have severe carpal tunnel syndrome or are in late-term pregnancy. It should also be avoided by those with injury to the back, arms, or shoulders; and by those with high blood pressure, eye or inner ear infections. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
How To Do The Adho Mukha Svanasana : Step-by-Step Instructions
1. Stand on four limbs, such that your body forms a table-like structure.
2. Exhale and gently lift your hips and straighten your elbows and knees. You need to ensure your body forms an inverted ‘V’.
3. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders, and your feet in line with your hips. Make sure that your toes point outwards.
4. Now, press your hands into the ground and lengthen your neck. Your ears should touch your inner arms, and you should turn your gaze to your navel.
5. Hold for a few seconds, and then, bend your knees and return to the table position.
When done correctly, Downward Dog can greatly benefit the whole body. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- If you are very flexible, do not let your rib cage sink toward the floor. Draw your lower ribs in and maintain a flat back.
- Your heels do not need to touch the ground. Do not worry about it — avoid walking your feet closer to your hands for this purpose. Maintain the length of your spine and the lift of your pelvis.
If you have difficulty releasing and opening your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on a pair of blocks or the seat of a metal folding chair.
Modifications & Variations
Since Downward-Facing Dog is performed so often during Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Power Yoga classes, it’s important to learn how to do it correctly to avoid injury and fatigue. Try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- To begin warming up and stretching the hips, bend one knee while keeping the other leg straight. Change sides and repeat five times.
- To correctly learn the spine-lengthening aspect of Downward Dog, first bend your knees in the pose, coming onto the balls of your feet. Bring your shins parallel to the mat and keep your sit bones lifting high and back. Press your hips toward the wall behind you. Then, slowly begin to straighten your legs.
- For a greater challenge, lift your right leg as high as possible, reaching through the heel. Keeping your right leg lifted, extend your left arm behind you. Rest the back of your hand on your low back. Repeat on the other side.
- For a restorative version of the pose, place a yoga block under your head. Release all neck tension. Hold for up to five minutes.
- Place a yoga block between your inner thighs to learn the movement of inner rotation. Grip the block with your thighs and press it toward the wall behind you as you hold the pose.
Benefits Of The Downward-Facing Dog
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
This is another important asana. It is a part of the sun salutation or Surya Namaskar. It stretches those parts of the body that cannot be stretched otherwise, therefore giving you a range of health benefits.