Downward DogI was walking down the street the other day with a friend and overheard this group of two girls and a guy walk by one of the yoga studios where I teach. One of the girls asked the group if anyone had done yoga. I didn’t quite catch the rest of the conversation except for guy saying, “no but I think I could do a down dog.” Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana is almost always the go-to pose when referring to yoga. It is considered a resting pose but this is not always the case when you first begin your practice.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is the Sanskrit name. Adho means downward, mukha means face, svana means dog. This pose calms the brain, relieves stress and mild depression. It helps to prevent osteoporosis, energizes the body, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands. Practice downward facing dog if you have symptoms of menopause or menstrual cramps. It can help with headaches, high blood pressure, asthma, sciatica, flat feet, and sinusitis. It’s good for runners who are tired after a hard race. It will develop speed and lightness in the legs for sprinters.

Begin on all fours in a tabletop position. Your hands will be shoulder-width apart and your knees hip width apart. Walk your hands one hand print forward. Press into your hands. Tuck your toes and lift your hips to the ceiling. Keep your feet hip distance (that’s about two fists between your big toes). You can bend into the knees and lift your heels off the mat; they do not need to touch the earth. Pay attention to how your hamstrings feel in your body.

Root down through your feet by extending your heels away from your toes. Begin to straighten your legs. The outer edges of the feet are parallel with the edge of the mat. Rotate your inner thighs, your inseam of your pants, to the back of the mat. Spread your fingertips wide like starfish and press down between the index finger and thumb. Every knuckle should be grounding into the mat so if someone were to try and pick your fingers up, they wouldn’t move. Find that suction cup in the middle of your palm as you plant all 10 fingers into the earth. Wrists are facing the front of the mat. The middle finger or index finger is parallel to the side of the mat. Draw the shoulders down your back to create space between your shoulders and ears. Bring your head between your upper arms.

Rotate your triceps in as if you’re giving someone a hug. Continue to press between your index finger and thumb. Lengthen through the side body (latissimus dorsi) to bring your chest closer to your thighs. Reach the tailbone toward the pubic bone. Spread the sitting bones. Relax your neck until you can hold it between the upper arms. Let your gaze fall down your nose toward your belly button. Bend your knees to the mat and rest in Child’s Pose.

Be careful with this pose if you are working with carpal tunnel syndrome. Do not do this pose late-term if you are pregnant. Individuals with high blood pressure or a headache can support their head on a bolster or a block in this pose. Keep the ears between the arms.


Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga Journal: Downward Facing Dog

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