Yoga is a wellness practice that strengthens the mind, body, and spirit. There are many different yoga postures and styles. The Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Much Svanasana in Sanskrit) is one of the most famous yoga pose and it has many benefits.
I include the Downward Facing Dog in most of my classes. Therefore, it is important to perform this pose correctly (i.e., to go into the pose, stay in the pose and come out of the pose with awareness and control). We want to avoid injuries but also to make it as effective and as comfortable as possible.
What are the benefits of the Downward Facing Dog pose?
- Stretches the whole body, the hamstrings, calves, and ankles. It also stretches the spine, sides of the trunk, lengthens the front of the body and allows the back to be straight.
- Strengthens the upper body (shoulders and arms), the ankles and tones the legs.
- Stimulates blood flow (into the head as it is an inversion). The flow of blood to the brain calms the nervous system, improves the memory and concentration, and is a great stress reliever. See Contraindication later.
- Improves posture and helps with balance.
- Fine-tunes your foot muscles.
- Eliminates stiffness in neck and in upper body.
- For runners it is also a great exercise to do after a long run.
Downward Facing Dog can be practiced as a restorative pose by resting the forehead or crown of the head on a bolster, block or folded blankets. This way it helps with the management of headache, insomnia and mild depression.
When practiced regularly, Downward Facing Dog can also improve the digestion, relieve back pain, and help prevent osteoporosis.
How to practice the Downward Facing Dog pose?
- Stand tall in the Mountain pose.
- Exhale, bend forward from the hips (bend the knees if you need to) and bring your hands onto the mat, as wide as your shoulders. Spread your fingers, have weight in your palms.
- On an exhalation step back with one leg then with the other, keeping the feet approx. hip width apart. Do not worry if your heels do not touch the mat.
- Pull your inner arms up, move your torso towards your thighs.
- Lengthen the neck and release the head. For some very experience people, the head might touch the floor.
- Work the legs by pulling up the kneecaps and quadriceps.
- Hold the pose for 20 seconds (say 5 cycles of your breath) or longer if you are more experienced, up to 1 minute.
- As noted earlier you can practice Downward Facing Dog with head supported
- Coming out of the pose: inhale look up, step forward one leg at a time. On inhalation come up to standing. Stay in standing to allow for your
Although practiced so often, the Downward Facing Dog is often not carried out correctly as it is more complex than it may look. There is a lot to think about in this pose.
Counter-indicators and alternatives:
If you have high blood pressure, which is not controlled by medication, do not do this pose. Support the head on a bolster or block or do the Half Uttanasana (stand facing the wall, hands are on the wall, in line with your shoulders. Step back with until your feet are under your hips. Work the legs.
The photos are:
Eve Grzybowski, (teacher of the teachers) demonstrates the pose
Friends’ dog is posing, Yggi