Downward Facing Dog // Adho Muka Svasana
Updated: May 20, 2018
(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna) adho = downward mukha = face svana = dog
Let’s talk about one of the fundamental poses, or asanas, of yoga. Downward Facing Dog, and in Sanskrit Adho Muka Svasana. This pose is done upwards of 15 times in a one hour Vinyasa class. That’s a lot of times to be upside down! It’s one of the poses done in a traditional Sun Salutation sequence (we'll get into this more later). And this pose can be deceptively challenging because it does require quite a bit of strength. But you got this!
It is considered an inversion because your head is below your heart. Before getting into Downward Dog, you should warm up the body. Doing some core work, like plank, and natural body stretches, like standing and stretching your hands to the sky, are a good place to start. Stretching cold muscles is how injuries are caused so be sure your body is warm before doing any poses.
Step 1 - Once you’ve warmed up, then it’s time to move into Downward Dog. Starting in a table top position on all fours. Hands on the mat shoulder width apart with pointer fingers facing the front of your mat, spread your fingers really wide. Keep your knees directly under hips and tuck your toes.
Step 2 - On the exhale lift your hips up and back. Bring your tailbone to the sky straightening out the knees. Press firmly into your hands keeping your weight spread evenly between the hands and feet. The goal is to have a flat straight back, not necessarily straight legs. *This is a common misconception. So it’s okay to have a slight bend in the knees and stand on your toes rather than have your heels touch the mat.
Step 3 - Roll your shoulders out and push your chest towards the top of your thighs bringing the biceps by your ears. Shake your head to release any tension in the neck. Breathe. And ta-dah, you're in downward dog! Stay here for five deep breaths, then drop back to your knees and repeat.
Bonus - Once you’ve settled into Downward Facing Dog, try pedaling your feet by bending your knee and ankle while lifting your heel up, one foot at a time. Or try reaching opposite hand to foot and looking under your shoulder for a deeper stretch.
Encourages blood flow
Boosts immunity by elongating the Bladder channel which is known in acupuncture to house the “Back Shu” points that run down your spine
Energizes and calms the body
Opens sinuses because of the upside down position which allows mucus to flow
Counteracts sitting at a desk by opening your anterior chest (front of the body)
Relieves neck and back pain from poor posture
Insomnia, fatigue, and headache relief
Enhances strength AND flexibility in arms and legs