Down Dog with Head on Block or Bolster is also known as Supported Downward-Facing Dog, or in Sanskrit (Sālamba Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (sah-LOM-bah AH-doh MOO-kah Shva-NAAH-sah-nah), and is highly recognized as a staple in Yoga classes. When practiced in a Restorative Yoga setting, props are used to ensure that students have more support which takes strain away from the neck and spine which creates a calming effect. For cueing information, and a review on how to set up this asana, see the below picture and video.

In your textbook “RESTORATIVE YOGA FOR LIFE” you can review a full break down of this asana and how to use props to practice it. You will also see additional modifications that can be done below.

Modifications
• Students whose heels come off the floor, or need to increase their flexibility, can place their heels on the wall or place a blanket, bolster, or folded mat under the heels for support.
• Students with little flexibility in the spine, have too much pressure in the lower back, shoulders, or neck, cannot keep their legs straight, or have tightness in the hips or hamstrings, should keep their knees slightly bent. Alternatively, they can practice by standing with their hands against a wall or chair.
• Students, who are pregnant or have extreme weakness or tightness in their upper extremities, should practice standing in front of a wall. Have them bend at the hips, arm’s length away from the wall. With the feet under the hips, have them push into the wall so that their hips are as far back as comfortable. Alternatively, they can practice Cat Cow Pose (Durga-Go).
• For students with wrist injuries or discomfort and/or tight shoulder, can either: a) elevate their wrists with a blanket, folded mat or bolster, b) form fists and practice the pose on their knuckles, or c) go down to their forearms in Dolphin Pose (Ardha Piñcha Mayūrāsana) - with or without a block.
• To reduce shoulder strain and/or discomfort, and open the shoulders, students can either: a) bring their hands and shoulders out slightly wider, b) place their hands blocks or a chair, or c) place blocks under their forearms to keep the elbows from hyperextending.
• Students who have difficulty gripping the mat can practice with their heels or fingers against a wall. Alternatively, they can also practice by holding onto the corners of their mat.
• Students whose head feels heavy, have high blood pressure, have frequent headaches, or have a stiff spine, should always place a blanket, bolster, or block under their head for support (Salamba Adho Mukha Svanasana).
• For advanced students, have them walk their feet in closer to their hands for a deeper stretch.

Since the major difference between Down Dog with Head on Block or Bolster the traditional Downward-Facing Dog is a block or bolster supporting the head, you will find that the benefits and contraindications are the same.

Benefits
• Stretches and strengthens the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, back, spine, abdomen, glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles, and feet as well as strengthens tendons and ligaments.
• Opens the chest - stimulating the respiratory system, which is therapeutic for students with asthma, palpitations, sinusitis, and breathlessness.
• Increases joint flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles and softens calcaneal spurs.
• Aids with stiffness and tension around the spine, shoulder blades, heels, and ankles, as well as soothes backaches, sciatica, arthritis in the shoulder joints, heel pain, neck aches, symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort (when head is supported).
• Stimulates the stomach and intestines aiding in digestion, as well as stimulates the circulatory system.
• Stimulates the brain and nervous system, energizing the body, which relieves insomnia, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and mild depression while improving focus, willpower, concentration and memory.

Contraindications
1. Students with heart complications, or high blood pressure, should be cautious in this pose.
2. Students with severe shoulder, arm, hips, and/or back injury, or a slip disc, should avoid this pose. Also, students prone to shoulder dislocation, should not rotate their shoulders externally.
3. Students with diarrhea, glaucoma, eye or inner ear infections, rheumatoid arthritis with a fever, or vertigo should avoid this pose.
4. Students with wrist issues, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strains, should practice with props and modifications.
5. Pregnant students should not practice this posture late-term.
6. Some students may become fatigued, advise them to move into Child’s Pose (Balasana) to rest.

As with the other asanas we have reviewed, see below for a simple breakdown of the affected chakras and how the doshic balance is affected. You will notice that just like Child’s Pose this asana has an affect on the energy flow of the entire body.

Chakras
Chakra One:Root or Muladhara (root support) Chakra. This is the survival and gravity chakra. Its goals are stability, grounding, prosperity, right livelihood, and physical health. Its location is the base of the spine, coccygeal plexus, legs, feet, and large intestines.
Chakra Two:Sacral or Svadhisthana (sweetness) Chakra. This is the chakra for emotion, sexuality, and attraction of opposites. Its goals are fluidity, pleasure, and relaxation. Its location is the abdomen, genitals, lower back, and hips.
Chakra Three:Solar Plexus, Self-Power, or Manipura (lustrous gem) Chakra. This is the combustion, power, and energy chakra. Its goals are vitality, strength of will, and purpose. Its location is the solar plexus.
Chakra Four:Heart, Love, or Anahata (Unstuck) Chakra. This is the love and equilibrium chakra. Its goals are balance, compassion, and acceptance. Its location is the heart.
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.
Chakra Six:Third-Eye or Ajna (to perceive) Chakra. This is the intuition and projection chakra. Its goals are psychic perception and imagination. Its location is the brow.
Chakra Seven:Crown or Sahasrara (Thousandfold) Chakra. This is the understanding and consciousness chakra. Its goals are wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual connection. Its location is the top of the head.

Doshas
VataThis dosha is decreased in this asana.
PittaThis dosha is increased in this asana.
KaphaThis dosha is increased in this asana.


Additional information on this asana

  • In the textbook “YOGA: THE PATH TO HOLISTIC HEALTH by B.K.S. Iyengar
    • CHAPTER 4: ASANAS FOR YOU
      • Standing Asanas
        • Adhomuka Svanasana (Downward-facing dog stretch)
    • CHAPTER 5: YOGA FOR STRESS
      • Asanas for Stress
        • Adhomuka Svanasana (Downward-facing dog stretch)

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