Downwards Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward-Facing Dog)

(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna) 
adho = downward 
mukha = face 
svana = dog

One of the most popular yoga poses practiced in the West, this asana rejuvenates, releasing tension from the hips, abdomen, and back of the legs. However, this yoga position requires complete consciousness during yoga practice and the mind must be engaged on the proper position of the entire body.


 

Benefits


Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression 

Energizes the body 

Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands 

Strengthens the arms and legs 

Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause 

Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported 

Helps prevent osteoporosis 

Improves digestion 

Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue 

Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

Contraindications/Cautions


Carpal tunnel syndrome 

Diarrhea 

Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term. 

High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.

Performing the Asana


Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. 

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins. 

Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis. 

Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along 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. Keep the head between the upper arms; don't let it hang. 

Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It's also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child's Pose.

Anatomical Focus


Hips/ Low (Lumbar Region) Back

Shoulders

Hamstrings

Achilles Heel

Neck

Therapeutic Applications


Relieves Menstrual Ailments / Menopause

Sciatica

Modify Your Practice


To get a feel for the work of the outer arms, loop and secure a strap around your arms just above your elbows. Imagine that the strap is tightening inward, pressing the outer arms in against the bones. Against this resistance, push the inner shoulder blades outward. 

You may either bend the elbows, placing the forearms on the mat for wrist comfort, or bend the knees (keeping them in-line with the toes) for tight hamstring/hip release.

Variations


To challenge yourself in this pose, inhale and raise your right leg parallel to the line of your torso, and hold for 30 seconds, keeping the hips level and pressing through the heel. Release with an exhalation and repeat on the left for the same length of time.

Complimentary Yoga Poses


Plank Pose 
Uttanasana - Standing Forward Fold Position

Tips for Beginners


If you have difficulty releasing and opening your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on a pair of blocks or the seat of a metal folding chair.

Deepen the Pose


To increase the stretch in the backs of your legs, lift slightly up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Then draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, lifting actively from the inner heels. Finally, from the height of the groins, lengthen the heels back onto the floor, moving the outer heels faster than the inner.

Partner Practice


A partner can help you learn how to work the top thighs in this pose. First perform Adho Mukha Svanasana. Have your partner stand behind and loop a strap around your front groins, snuggling the strap into the crease between your top thighs and front pelvis. Your partner can pull on the strap parallel to the line of your spine (remind him/her to extend the arms fully, and keep the knees bent and chest lifted). Release the heads of your thigh bones deeper into your pelvis and lengthen your front torso away from the strap.