Strike a Pose! Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana

(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)

Adho = downward
Mukha = face
Svana = dog

Asana = pose

One of the most popular yoga poses today, mainly for its name –down dog. Even if you’ve never attended a yoga class, you most likely have heard of this one. This is a very important pose, used throughout the sequence, mainly in the Sun Salutation but also as a transitional pose. This is also a great pose done by its self then followed by resting in Child’s Pose.

How to do Downward Facing Dog:

The pose resembles that of an upside down letter V.

  • Let’s start with the hands: they should be shoulder width apart and your wrist line (joint) should be parallel to the front edge of your mat. There should be equal space between each of your fingers and in general, your middle finger will point straight ahead. It is very important that you ground your entire hand fully (especially knuckles of your index finger and thumb) into the ground at all times to avoid excess strain on your wrist joint.
  • Your feet are hip width apart and they are to remain parallel to each other. Find the range for placement of the feet, not too close but not too far apart, well supported from both legs and arms. Grounding with hands and feet.
  • Shoulder blades working down along the spine, space between the shoulders and ears – no tension in the neck. Lengthen the back, soften the front
  • Raise the heels to find extension of the spine, the sit bones pointed to the ceiling, gradually lower heels to mat. Not essential to have heels on the mat – main point of pose is to straighten the back – no rounding or arching in the back, supported equally by your upper and lower body, elongating the neck and spine.
  • Beginners and those with tight hamstrings will start with bent knees.

 

 

Benefits of Downward Facing Dog:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body, Increases full-body circulation – feel the flow of energy running in around the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

 

  • Downward facing dog elongates and lengthens the back. For the office worker who spends their day hunched over a computer or desk this pose would have great benefit by stretching out the body.
  • Additionally, downward facing dog is a mild inversion since the head is lower than the hips, and inversions are great for increasing blood flow to the brain and eyes. And because it stimulates the nervous system, it also helps with memory and concentration.

There are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely: If you have a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, if you are in the late stages of pregnancy and if you experience sharp pains while performing the pose.

 

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