"It is through the body that you realize you are a spark of divinity" - B.K.S Iyengar
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Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog

One of the most popular asanas in the yoga practice is definitely Adho Mukha Svanasana or as we know it in English, Downward Facing Dog. The word adho means down, mukha means face and svana means dog. The pose resembles that of a dog stretching with the bum in the air and paws stretched out in front. Adho Mukha Svanasana is meant to be a full body stretch with the aim of it being a back stretch first and then a leg stretch. The reason for mentioning this is that many people focus on getting the legs straight and trying to get their heels to touch the ground. This often results in a lot of pressure being put on the wrists. Rather the focus should be on straightening the back with the knees bent and once the back is straight then we start to focus on straightening out the legs. As you press into the floor drawing the hips up and backwards while straightening the back you take some of the weight off the wrists and hands allowing you to hold it for a bit longer and relieving the discomfort in the hands.

Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose

It is one of those poses that at first you may struggle with but then there’s that one day that comes along and it starts to become effortless, your arms stop shaking, your breathing quietens down and it brings you into a meditative state. Maybe you learn to love it and realize it has replaced child’s pose as your resting pose. This pose becomes much easier with time as you build strength and you will find yourself doing it quite a bit especially in Vinyasa Yoga classes and Ashtanga Yoga classes which incorporate the Surya Namaskar sequences, which are the Sun Salutation sequences.

Benefits of Downward Facing Dog

  • removes fatigue and restores energy
  • relieves pain and stiffness in the heels
  • strengthens the ankles
  • releases stiffness in the shoulder blades and strengthens the shoulders
  • strengthens the body as a whole
  • stretches the back, hamstrings and calves

Perform Downward Facing Dog

  1. Start off in table top pose so you are on the floor on all fours, knees as wide as hips and directly below them, hands as wide as shoulders and they can be slightly in front of the shoulders. Spread out the fingers evenly with palms flat down on the ground.
  2. Ensuring the feet are as wide as the hips, tuck the toes under and send the tailbone up into the sky and then backwards pressing the hands into the floor. If you finding you have a lot of weight in your hands and/or your spine is curved then bend the knees and focus on drawing the chest towards the thighs. If your back is straight then focus on straightening the legs and drawing the heels towards the ground.
  3. Relax the head and allow it to be heavy.
  4. Your gaze, or drishti as it is known in Sanskrit, is between the feet.

If you find this pose challenging then only hold it for a few deep breathes, drop the knees and take child’s pose to rest. Then come back into table top, back into downward facing dog and hold again for a few breathes. With time both the back and legs will begin to straighten and you will achieve the full expression of this asana.

It will get easier to hold for a longer period of time with consistent practice.


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