Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (Downward Facing Dog)
  • Stand with your feet together, bring your hands down next to your feet
  • Step your legs back toward the end of the mat
  • Form a V-shape with your body
  • Press your chest towards the thighs
  • Draw the hips up and the heels down
  • Stay for 5 breaths

Asana in Depth

Adho Mukha Śvānāsana, also known as downward facing dog, is a popular pose often used in sun salutations. It looks like the stretch a dog takes when stretching its back and keeping its head down. We try to mimic the same pose here. Downward facing dog gives a great stretch to legs and to the back.

Stand with your feet together in tāḍāsana and bend down to place your hands next to your feet, shoulder distance apart. Step your feet back one by one toward the end of the mat, lifting the hips up at the same time. Your body will form a “V-shape”. Keep the arms straight as you push your weight back to the heels. Draw the heels down into the ground and at the same time lift your sitting bones higher up. Keep your head down, looking back toward your legs. Push the chest toward the thighs. Make sure you spread your fingers wide apart and firmly press all parts of your hands into the ground. There should not be any space between the mat and your hands. Keep your shoulders down, away from the ears and feel a gentle backbend between the shoulder blades. Be careful not to overextend the spine down and create an arched lower back. Rather, focus on extending your spine, pushing back, and drawing the heels down. Straighten the legs, lift the kneecaps up and engage the thighs fully. Turn your thighs inward and back to deepen the stretch. It is recommended to stay here for at least five deep breaths. This asana can be followed by child’s pose, to counter stretch and relax the back.

There are several variations to this posture. If you have tight hamstrings or hips, it is recommended to keep the knees bend. This will allow you to raise the hips up as high as they can go, and stretch the chest down towards the thighs. Overtime you can work on drawing the heels down into the mat and straightening the heels. It is more important in the beginning to focus on lifting the hips than getting the heels down. Another option is to keep the back of the heels against a wall to keep the heels drawn down into the floor. This will also help to straighten the legs and you can focus on drawing the chest toward the thighs.

The benefits of this posture are deep stretches to the hamstrings and to the back. Your arms and upper body strengthen and stiffness from the shoulder region gets reduced. Downward facing dog is also considered an inversion, thus the braincells get rejuvenated with fresh oxygen. It removes tiredness and sluggishness from the body and keeps you energized.

The contra indications for this pose are high blood pressure and back injuries. Though those with high blood pressure can still perform the pose, they can take small breaks of child’s pose in between. Those with back injuries can keep their knees slightly bent to protect the back.

Major Benefits
  • Stretches the back and hamstrings
  • Releases tension from the shoulders
  • Rejuvenates the brain
  • Energizes the body
  • Removes fatigue
Contra Indications
  • High blood pressure
  • Back injuries
Anatomy Basics
  • Stretches Spinal Erector Muscles
  • Stretches the hamstrings
  • Engages the quadriceps
  • Engages the triceps