April 19, 2017

Downward Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog Pose

Possibly the most famous of the yoga postures, Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog, is a mild inversion. Yes, Downward Dog is an inversion, as in this pose your head is below your heart. We’ll get more into inversions later on, but for now, know that Down Dog is an inversion.

Its Sanskrit name comes from four Sanskrit words: adho means ‘downward’, mukha means ‘face’, svana means ‘dog’, and asana means ‘pose’.

Downward Facing Dog (also sometimes called “Downward Dog” or just “Down Dog”) is an important part of Sun Salutations and Vinyasas, and it is often done many times during a yoga class. It can be used as a transitional pose, a resting pose, and a strength-builder.

You can come into Down Dog from a number of postures, including Tabletop (hands and knees),  Plank Pose, and Cobra Pose. We’ll come into it from our last pose, Upward Facing Dog:

  • Press firmly into your hands, and pull your navel towards your spine to begin lifting the hips
  • Tuck your toes under so you come onto the balls of the feet
  • Press the hips up and back
  • Press the chest back towards the thighs, bringing your body into the shape of an “A”yoga tutorial: downward facing dog
  • Straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees
  • Keep the feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward, heels reaching toward the floor (but don’t have to touch the floor)
  • Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles
  • Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
  • Pull your shoulder blades down your back, making space for the neck
  • Rotate your arms externally so your elbow creases face your thumbs
  • Continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing your spine
  • Keep your core active
  • Engage your quadriceps
  • Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your sit bones high
  • Align your ears with your upper arms.
  • Relax your head, but do not let it dangle
  • Breathe
Modifications:
  1. Use blocks under the hands or head
  2. Place a folded towel under the wrists
  3. Press both heels against a wall
Benefits:
  • Strengthens the upper body: arms, shoulders, chest
  • Strengthens the legs
  • Stretches chest, shoulders
  • Stretches the whole back of the body: ankles, calves, hamstrings, spine
  • Calms the mind
  • Overall energizes the body
  • Stimulates blood circulation
  • Neutralizes the spine between backbends and forward bends
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About the author 

Natalie

I am a yoga teacher who focuses on bridging the gap between what happens on the mat and life off the mat. Yoga is life – it is meant to be lived!

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