Downward-facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Steps, Benefits & Precautions

downward facing dog pose | adho mukha Svanasana

PronunciationAh-doh MOO-kah Swaan-asana
MeaningAdho - Downward
Mukha - Face
Svanasana - Dog Pose
Known asDown dog
Downward Dog  
अधोमुखश्वानासन
Pose TypeForward Bend, Inversion
Pose LevelBeginner - Hold 1-2 minutes
Beneficial InDigestion, Stretching, Grounding

One common behavior that comes with all dogs is to stretch from front legs to tail when they get up. This stretching is a symbol of they want to play or simply, a physical activity. Downward facing dog pose in yoga is practiced on the same principle.

Downward-facing dog is one of the most practiced yoga poses by beginners as well as advanced practitioners. While a beginner can practice it to build strength in wrist & shoulder muscles, for an advanced practitioner, it works like a relaxing posture. In a yoga session, you might have practiced this pose in:

  • Vinyasa flow of Plank – Chaturanga – Upward Dog – Downward Dog
  • 8th step of Sun Salutation sequence

When performing, down dog is a simple forward bend with a gentle inversion in which the body stretches evenly from the fingers tips to the bottom hills. This even stretching soothes the nervous system and helps in relieving the stress.

Downward Dog Pose Steps

how to do downward facing dog

In downward-facing dog pose, our body’s weight evenly distributed over hands & foot at back. It’s very easy to come into this pose. Simply follow the following steps.

1. Preparing for the Pose

  • Place your hands and knees on the floor i.e come to Table Top position.
  • Spread your fingers wide apart, middle finger pointing forwards.

Note- Knees should be slightly behind the hips and hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and your knees should be hip-width apart.

2. Getting into the Pose

  • Now on an inhalation, slowly raise the hips towards the ceiling with the help of thigh muscles, straightening your feet.  Raise the hips as up as you can.
  • Simultaneously, move your head inwards and touch the crown of your head to the floor.

Note- Bringing the crown of the head to the floor will need an additional stretch to your shoulders and arms.

If you can’t touch the crown of the head to the ground, at least bring it closer to the floor, as much as you can. Also, you might have to stretch your hips backward to balance the body.

  • Keep your arms and elbows straight, extending the back. Bring your body weight to hands and toes equally. Try to push the floor forwards with your palms.

Note- Do not put all the pressure in a single portion of the hand. Spread it evenly throughout the whole palm. While in feet, all of the pressure will be in the front part of the feet, toes, and toe balls.

  • Then try to touch your heels to the floor. It’s okay if your heels are not touching the floor but you have to keep them stretched towards the floor. Make sure that, toes are facing forwards.
  • Now, hold the same position for about one minute and breathe deeply for the flow of Prana.

3. Coming Out of the Pose

  • When you are done, lift the head off the floor with an exhalation.
  • Simultaneously, open the trunk forward and bring down the lower body to the floor gently.

Note- Here your body will be at the table-top pose, as at the beginning of this asana.

  • Now relax the whole body and release the asana.

Common Mistakes While Performing Downward Dog Pose

  • Rounding the Back

Many of us round their back while performing this asana, but, it is wrong. You have to keep you back straight so that the muscles of your back and spines are stretches and toned.

  • Bending the Knees

This is a common mistake people do while practicing this asana. They bend their knees for better comfort. But, bending the knees eliminates the stretch and focus form muscles of thighs and hips. So remember to keep your knees straight, neither bend them nor lock them.

  • Bending the Palms

Many people bend their palms and form a cup-like structure with their palm for comfort. In other words, they lift their knuckles a bit and raise the center of the palm.

But, it will not let you distribute the body weight evenly to the palm. In such a condition, the whole body weight will be on your wrist and fingertips, and it might hurt your wrist or fingertips. So, make sure to place your palm flat on the floor.

Beginner’s Tip

  • At the beginning of this asana, you might feel it difficult to touch your crown to the floor, so, you can place a yoga block or a folded blanket beneath your head. Then touch your crown to this yoga block or blanket.
  • Also, in the beginning, it is hard to perform this asana for 1 minute, so you can consider to do it for 30 seconds in the beginning and then with practice, increase it gradually.
  • Sometimes, at the beginner level, the feet spread apart unconsciously. So, you can take the help of a yoga strap on your feet, that will not let them spread apart.
  • Besides everything else, you can take the help of a partner to perform Downward Dog Pose.

Benefits Of Adho-Mukha Svanasana

  • Increases mobility and flexibility of the body
  • Tones the muscles of core and back
  • Strengthens the hamstring, calves, back, waist muscles in the lower body & arms, shoulder, core in the upper body
  • Relieves stress and strain in the body
  • Increases energy and removes fatigue
  • Increased ability of the feet to store power
  • Relieves pain and stiffness in the heels
  • Softens Calcaneal Spurs 1
  • Balances the high blood pressure

Misconception About Downward Dog Pose

Many people believe that head in Downwards Dog Pose is lifted off the floor. They do not place their crown on the floor during this asana. But, in reality, Downward Dog Pose is not what they think it is. It is a little different from what they do.

What they actually do, is called Parvatasana or Mountain Pose.  Let’s see how they differ from each other.

Downward Dog Pose Vs Parvatasana

Parvatasana is quite similar to the Downward Dog Pose. These two vary from each other in the following aspects. On a deeper level, you can see much difference in these two, but, these are the differences you can note visually.

  • Position of Head

In Downward Dog Pose, the crown of the head is placed on the floor. But, in Parvatasana head remains in the air, only the neck is stretched.

  • Feet Position

In Downward Dog Pose, the feet are kept hip-width apart from each other, while, in Parvatasana, feet are next to each other.

  • Overall Body Shape

In Parvatasana, the body looks like an inverted ‘V’ letter, while in Downward Dog Pose, the body does not look exactly like an inverted ‘V’ letter.

Precautions and Contraindications

  • Remove all the ornaments such as a watch or bracelet before performing this asana.
  • Do not overstretch your body in this asana. Understand and listen to the limits of your body. Otherwise, you might end up getting an injury.
  • If you have a recent or a deep injury in your wrist, shoulders, back, or legs, do not perform this asana at all.
  • Avoid this asana if you are suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 2.
  • Do not practice Downward Dog Pose if you are having any kind of illness such as fever and headache.

Many believe that performing Downward Dog Pose in pregnancy causes harm to mother and baby both. But, research 3 states that Downward Dog Pose has no ill effect on the health of pregnant women or her unborn baby. still, you are advised to consult a specialist before performing it in pregnancy time.

Downward-facing Dog Pose FAQs

  1. For whom Down Dog is most Beneficial?

    After long hours of sitting on the chair, the spine gets exhausted. So if you're a desk job person, this pose rests spine if done correctly. If you're a sportsperson which involves sprinting like soccer and tennis, then to relieve tightness of hamstring you can do a few rounds of down-dog daily.

  2. What muscles does downward dog work?

    The Downward Dog pose stretches the muscles of almost the whole body. Starting from the top of the body, it supplies the proper blood flow to the brain and strengthens the brain cells. It stretches the muscles of the neck and shoulder. In this practice, the diaphragm is lifted to the chest cavity, which slows down the increased heartbeat and pressure of the blood. Also, it draws the abdomen muscles towards the spine.

  3. What are Misconception About Downward Dog Pose?

    Many people believe that head in Downwards Dog Pose is lifted off the floor. They do not place their crown on the floor during this asana. But, in reality, Downward Dog Pose is not what they think it is. It is a little different from what they do. What they actually do, is called Parvatasana or Mountain Pose.

References

  1. what is Calcaneal Spurs https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/heel-spurs-pain-causes-symptoms-treatments#1
  2. what is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/
  3. Yoga in Pregnancy: An Examination of Maternal and Fetal Responses https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/fulltext/2015/

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