Yoga Pose Step by Step Introduction: Downward Facing Dog

November 5th, 2011

Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the most easily recognised yoga poses and is great for stretching and strengthening the whole body by placing emphasis on strengthening the wrists, arms and shoulders as well as stretching the whole back of the body including the back of the legs (hamstrings), calves and ankles. It improves digestion, respiration and circulation. This pose also oxygenates the blood and therefore revitalises body and mind, and is fantastic for building endurance and stamina.


How to do it:

Step 1: Getting onto all 4’s

  • Limber your wrists by circling your hands around your wrists first to make sure that your wrist joints are warmed up and prepared for wrist bearing.
  • Then come onto all 4’s with your wrists in line with your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. Spread your fingers wide. (Figure 1)
  • If you have sensitive wrists, you can roll up the front end of your yoga mat or use a towel and place it under your wrists. And if your shoulders are a bit tight, have you hands wider apart and turn them slightly out, so that your index fingers are pointing forward.
  • Keep your neck long and your shoulders relaxed.

Figure 1

Step 2: Preparing for Downward Facing Dog

  • Inhale and curl your toes under.
  • Exhale, lift your knees off the floor – keeping them bent – and pushing your pelvis up and back. (Figure 2)
  • Inhale, come back onto all 4’s again – and getting ready for coming into Downward Facing Dog.
  • Note: Feel free to repeat this preparation exercise a few times before moving into Downward Facing Dog.

Figure 2

Step 3: Coming into Downward Facing Dog

  • Inhale and curl your toes under.
  • Exhale, lift your knees off the floor, push your pelvis up as high as you can and back, coming onto the balls of your feet with your legs straight (if you can) or knees slightly bent. (Figure 3)

Figure 3

Step 4: Settling into Downward Facing Dog

  • Inhale and push your heels towards the floor – now moving fully into the pose (Figure 4). Remember you can keep your knees slightly bent if it feels too strong on the back of your legs, or step back a little bit further with your feet.
  • Make sure that there is no tension in your neck and shoulders and fully relax into the pose – breathing deeply.
  • Stay in Downward Facing Dog for a least two full breaths.

Figure 4

Step 5: Resting in Child Pose

  • To come out of Downward Facing Dog, inhale and come up onto the balls of your feet (Figure 3).
  • Exhale, bend your knees, lowering them to the floor into starting position – uncurling your toes.
  • Now, sit back on your heels, lower your upper body onto your thighs, place your forehead on the floor and your arms relaxed by your side – resting in Child Pose (Figure 5).
  • Note: You can widen your knees a little and/or place your forehead onto your folded forearms if that feels more comfortable.
  • Rest in this pose for a few deep breaths – and repeat another Downward Facing Dog if you like.

Figure 5

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