Downward-Facing Dog
ADHO MUKHA ŚVĀNĀSANA (अधो मुख श्वानासन)
(AH-doh MOO-kah Shva-NAAH-sah-nah)

 


‘Adho’= down or downward, ‘Mukha’= face, Śvāsa’= dog, ‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Downward Dog or Down Dog
Adho Mukha Shvanasana

Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pose Type: Standing / Inversion / Stretch / Forward-Bend

1. Start in Table Pose (Bharmanasana), on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips and your shoulders over your wrists. Press down through your palms, spreading your fingers, to ground yourself in this posture. Be sure not to lock the elbows.
2. Lengthen the back of your neck to be in line with your spine and curl your toes under.
3. Pressing into your palms, exhale and engage your core to lift the hips up and back, making sure that your arms and shoulders are aligned. Your upper arms should frame your ears with your shoulder blades rotated externally and flat on your back.
4. Bring your shoulders down and keep your chest open.
5. With your feet about hip-distance apart, use your quadriceps to gradually push your legs straight, being mindful not to lock your knees. If possible, press your heels to the mat.
6. Continue engaging your core to lengthen your torso and pull your belly into the spine, reaching the tailbone to the sky.
7. Keeping the neck soft, gaze toward your knees or ankles. Your body should be pointed like a triangle in the shape of an ‘A’ or upside down ‘V’. This allows for your arms, shoulders, spine, and hips to be in alignment as well as your hips, knees, and heels.
8. Hold the pose for several breaths, then slowly release back to the mat into Table Pose (Bharmanasana).

Common Adjustments
• Neck strained
• Head dropping
• Chin tucked in
• Shoulders not broad
• Shoulders are lifted towards ears
• Elbows locked
• Knees locked
• Fingers not spread out
• Too much strain on the wrists
• Hands and feet not facing straight forward
• Spine rounded
• Pelvis tucked under
• Core not engaged
• Legs not engaged
• Feet too far or too close together (out of alignment)

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.

Counter Poses
• Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
• Cat (Marjaryasana)
• Child’s Pose (Balasana) and Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana)
• Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
• Forward Bend, Standing (Uttanasana) or Half Forward Bend, Standing (Ardha Uttanasana)
• Hero (Virasana) or Supine Hero (Supta Virasana)
• Plow (Halasana)
• Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana) or Crescent High Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana)

Anatomy
• Chest (Pectoralis Major)• Shoulders (Deltoids)
• Wrists• Biceps and Triceps
• Upper (cervical), Middle (Thoracic) and Lower (Lumber) Back and Spine• Abdomen (Core)
• Hips (Iliopsoas)• Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus (Glutes)
• Quadriceps and Hamstrings• Calf muscles and Ankles

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.

Chakras
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.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 10 – Inverted Postures as “Adho Mukha Shvanasana – Downward-Facing Dog”.
    • Watch the Chapter 10 video “Adho Mukha Shvanasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthew, this posture can be found in Chapter 13 – ARM SUPPORT POSES as “ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA – Downward-Facing Dog Pose”.

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