Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana

Posted on Oct 19, 2012 in Blog, Postures | 0 comments

Downward dog posture Downward dog is one of those widely known yoga poses and one of the first poses you will encounter in a beginner’s class. It will also be visible in the most advanced classes because it’s variations and opportunities are endless.It can be practiced as a stand alone asana as well as a transitionary asana within a flowing sequence, during a Vinyasa class for example.
Pronunciation AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna
Translation adho = downward
mukha = face
svana = dog
Anatomical Focus Spine & Hamstrings
Category Inversion

Step by Step Instruction

1 Come onto the floor on your hands and knees, into flat Cat Posture, ensuring your hips are directly above your ankles and your shoulders above your wrists. Tuck your toes under.

2Take a breath and as you exhale, lift your knees away from the floor and draw your hips back. At first keep the knees slightly bent. The heels should be moving toward to floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back to feel an elongation in the spine.

3Now take the attention onto your arms. Firm the outer arms (triceps & deltoids) and press the base of the fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Nod your head up and down to release tension and then remain in line with your spine.

4Don’t feel the urge to dip your chest or abdomen towards the floor, you want to encourage a straight and lengthening of the entire spine. Draw back on your thighs and feel an expansion in between the shoulders.

5 Stay in this pose for as long as you’re comfortable and explore. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Balasana relaxation (childs pose).


In time, it is possible to experience the Downward Facing Dog Pose as a moment of rest between dynamic Yoga postures. However, when you are doing this, try to remain focused, both physically and mentally, and continue working on the technique further to get the maximum benefit from this movement.


  • Stretches and strengthens the back, shoulders, hips and legs. Lengthens the spine and the hamstrings as the heels begin to draw down to the ground.
  • If you sit at a desk all day, you will soon begin to appreciate the benefits to your posture as it straightens out hunched shoulders and collapsed spines, by giving each disc between the vertebrae space to expand and return to its original thickness and shape.
  • In fact any weight bearing activities such as continual heavy lifting, running plus obesity, will result in decompression of the discs.  This also explains why we actually lose height at the end of the day – yes this is true !!
  • As you can see, Downward Dog is an inverted posture, where the head becomes lower than the heart. This action relieves fatigue, improves circulation to the brain, stimulating increased focus and memory.

Contraindications and Cautions

  •     Carpal tunnel syndrome
  •     Diarrhea
  •     Pregnancy. Not recommended in 3rd trimester.
  •     High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.

Beginners Tips

At first keep the knees slightly bent. The heels should be moving toward to floor and as you become more practised you will find your heals gradually getting closer to the ground.

Sports Benefits

Use this posture to assess your tightness, weakness and postural imbalances.  This pose will gently open the hamstrings, tight calves and arches, stretch the shoulders, middle and lower back and help to strengthen the wrists.

It also tones the abdominal muscles supporting a strong core. Downward Dog will also release tension under the base of the shoulder blades, the latismus dorsi muscles which can become bulky and tight in martial arts /combat sports for example.

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