(Adho Mukha Svanasana): Techniques, Benefits, Variations

Level – Beginner

Downward Facing Dog

(Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Dog Pose Prep & Practice

1

Beginning on hands and knees, knees stacked under hips, hands slightly forward of shoulders. Low abs draw up and in, toes curl under.

2

Spread fingers, pressing down through knuckles. On an inhalation, lift sits bones toward the ceiling, lengthen legs and press thighs and ankles up and back.

3

Feet hip width apart (or wider), heels yearn back and down. Thighs are in neutral rotation, muscles engaged. Pelvis is neutral, pubic bone and tailbone draw up and back. Abdominals draw up and in, creating even length in the front, sides and back of torso.

4

Weight is evenly distributed across knuckles of hands. Forearms rotate internally as upper arms rotate externally, shoulders soften away from ears. Ears in line with biceps, jaw relaxed, breath is steady.

5

To come out of the pose, on an exhalation, lower knees and rest in Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Variations/Modifications

  • Bend knees 
  • Feet mat width apart 
  • Use wedges or blocks underhands (wrist injury)
  • Use fists instead of spreading hands (wrist injury)
  • Widen arms and/or bend elbows (shoulder injury)
  • Block between thighs
  • Puppy Pose or Tabletop

Physical, Mental and Emotional Benefits

  • Stretches hamstrings and lower back
  • Opens shoulders
  • Soothes headaches, reduces blood pressure
  • Creates space between vertebrae in spine
  • Calms the brain and relieves stress

Contraindications

  • Acid Reflux
  • Shoulder, Wrist or Neck Injuries (see modifications)
  • Glaucoma or Retinal Problems
  • Very Low Blood Pressure

Thoughtful Sequencing

Cow and Cat (Bitilasana and Marjaryasana), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Cow and Cat (Bitilasana and Marjaryasana), Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) pedaling the legs, bending one knee at a time before settling into stillness, Rest in Child’s Pose (Balasana).

Want more yoga pose tutorials? See more in my Yoga Pose Directory.

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