Downward Dog Pose & Benefits (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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How Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose Helps

According to BKS Iyengar, one among the foremost yoga gurus, adho mukha svanasana helps in stretching the legs, shoulders, spine and the whole body. It imparts strength to the body and particularly so to the legs, arms, and feet. It is also helpful in relieving fatigue, rejuvenating the body,  improving  digestion,  enhanced flow  of  blood to the sinuses,  lifting the spirits,  calming your mind and improving the immune system.

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Svana  is the  Sanskrit  word  for  dog  and  in  Adho mukha svanasana, the  posture resembles  a downward facing dog. Adho means downward and mukha means face.  Adho mukha svanasana benefits can be derived  even by yoga beginners  and should  ideally be part of  everyday  
 yoga practice.


Step by Step Instructions for Yoga Downward Facing Dog:

Step 1. Start with your hands and knees. Keep the knees directly beneath your hips and the hands slightly ahead of the shoulders.

Step 2. Inhale and lift your knees from the ground.

Step 3. Push back your thighs while exhaling stretch your heels against the floor. Keep your knees straight taking care not to lock them

Step 4. Brace up your arms and press the base of your index fingers actively to the ground. Now raise yourself from the base of the index finger. Ensure that the position of your head is between the upper arms and take care not to allow the head to drop.

Step 5. This pose is a part of the Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation) series and very effective by itself. Try to stay in the pose for a couple of minutes. Bend the knees to the ground and exhale to exit the pose and rest in the Child pose or Balasana.

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Avoid the pose if you have high blood pressure or ear/eye infection. People with wrist problems like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome should exercise caution while practicing the posture. 

Science and Research

Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana:
Studies  done  on the  pose suggest that the  gentle  compression  promotes  digestion  and  also relieves  gas  and bloating.  It  is  also beneficial for  alleviating stress  and  could help  in uplifting your mood. 

One of yoga’s most popular poses is the Downward-Facing Dog. It is also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit and is performed to strengthen the heart and enhance circulation. This rejuvenating pose offers a flavorful, full-body stretch. But why is it known as the dog pose? The title comes from its similarity to how a dog moves when turning up. The Sanskrit title is derived from adhas (अधस्), literally “down”; mukha (मुख), literally “confront”; śvāna (श्वान), literally “dog”; and āsana (आसन), literally “posture” or “chair.”


Following are the steps in performing the downward-facing dog.

  1. Get up on all fours with your hands approximately three inches before your own shoulders and shoulder-width apart.
  2. Twist your wrist creases so that they are parallel to the front edge of the mat and then root down equally throughout the entirety of every hand.
  3. Press firmly with your fingertips to pull your forearms towards the front of the room. Maintain your knuckles grounded as you do that.
  4. Twist your biceps forward while firming your waist in your midline.
  5. Roll your internal upper arms towards the wall before you while engaging your outer upper arms.
  6. Inhale and tuck your feet under. Then, exhale, and push your hips up and back.
  7. Glance back to your toes to be certain that they are hip-width parallel and apart.
  8. Let your head hang publicly, so there is absolutely no tension in the throat; deliver your gaze towards your toes.
  9. Permit your shoulder blades to spin up and away from the backbone and towards your outer eyebrow (upward turning) to keep the articulation of the bones of your shoulder and spaciousness at the bottom of the neck.
  10. Keep the arm and hand activities from all fours to open your shoulders without overstretching or halfway through the eyebrow.
  11. If your lower back feels curved, bend your knees to shift your sitting bones back and up.
  12. With every exhalation, root firmly through your palms. With every succeeding inhalation, send your buttocks up and back much more. Hold anywhere from several breaths to a couple of minutes and then discharge.

The downward dog sometimes takes a little practice; however, there are a couple of straightforward pointers to help make it easier for novice yogis to do. Here are some of these pointers:

  1. Make little movements. You do not need to spring up into place after getting on all fours. Smaller moves might be more convenient for novices. For instance, coming down on your forearms first and perform a modified plank before gradually straightening your legs out. You might even use yoga blocks to prop your hands up and make it much easier to finish the stretch.
  2. Change your heel positioning. If stretching your legs while keeping your spine straight is tough, you can alter your heel position for relief. As opposed to keeping your heels flat on the floor, permit them to rise from the mat. When you are all set to deepen the stretch, then you can try gradually plant your heels on the mat.
  3. Utilize a seat. The downward dog could be rough on the body in case you have little flexibility. To get a modified variant, try a forward bend facing a seat, using the chair to grip your arms and maintain your body in a broad “V” angle. Slowly walk your feet back until you feel the stretch.
  4. Keep your knees flexed. When you stretch your legs, avoid overextending or bending your knees, which may put unnecessary strain on the joints or contribute to harm. Maintain your legs as straight as you can while keeping a small bend at the knee to ensure sufficient equilibrium.
  5. Avoid tucking your tailbone. Your spine ought to be right for the entirety of the stretch. Tilt your pelvis to maintain your spine straight and keep you from rounding your spine.

Training Ground

The majority of us arrive at the yoga mat with a tendency towards bendiness or stiffness. Regardless of your flexibility, you can start to balance your entire body by practicing the downward dog. If you are stiff, then the pose will feel ambitious due to tightness in the hamstrings and shoulders. If you are flexible, you are most likely to fall in your lower spine and shoulders. Regrettably, bendy types may not feel the impact of the collapse until years after, when they start to sustain accidents in their lumbar discs or rotator cuff muscles. But if you are rigid or bendy, a superb modification called Puppy Dog can teach you the activities and alignment that permit you to perform a Downward Dog that feels open and spacious but can also be stable and powerful.

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How to Perform Yoga Safely and Prevent Injury

Proper form and technique are crucial to ensure the efficacy and safety of a yoga practice. In case you have a preexisting or previous health condition, consult your doctor prior to practicing yoga. Yoga poses can be altered according to your unique needs.

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Common Mistakes When Performing the Downward-Facing Dog

Though the Downward-Facing Dog is one of the most practiced yoga exercises, it is often performed incorrectly. It seems effortless—only bend forward, palms and feet a little aside, and there you go!—but this belief is wrong. There are many frequent errors when performing the Downward-Facing Dog that restricts the impact of this fantastic posture. Some of these errors are as follows:

  • The lower spine is curved. Curving the spine instead of keeping it straight is a common mistake for beginners because it is sort of a pure method of shaping the spine. But when doing the Downward-Facing Dog, it is imperative to lengthen the spine without rounding the back. A round back might be an indication of tight hip flexors, shoulders, or hamstrings.
  • The sitting bone isn’t lifting. Doing the Downward-Facing Dog is about extending the spine. To be able to accomplish that, the sitting bones ought to be raised towards the ceiling.
  • Weight is slipping onto the shoulders. The body’s weight needs to be evenly spread in your toes and hands. The power must move up from the palms and down onto the heels.
  • Hands are not rooted to the mat. This is a common mistake and is also the main reason many novices have stability issues. Additionally, not keeping the hands planted firmly on the ground can cause wrist issues.
  • Shoulders are decked out to the ears. When practicing Downward-Facing Dog, there must not be any strain on your shoulders. Beginners frequently have a tendency to be nervous and stiff, causing the shoulders to shrug towards the ears. Not only is that uncomfortable, but it is also going to result in severe neck pain.
  • The toes are too near the palms. Many beginners put their hands too near their toes since doing so gives them a sense of greater equilibrium. That is essentially cheating. You should not put your feet and hands too near each other; neither should you position them too far apart, as that may make the pose more uncomfortable. 
  • Heels are hitting towards the ceiling. Another common mistake when practicing Downward-Facing Dog is when the heels reach towards the ceiling instead of to the floor. It is just fine if there is a gap between the feet and the floor. The main issue is that the heels are yanking down. If they are high off the floor, this may suggest tight hamstrings, calves, or hip flexors.

Advantages of Downward-Facing Dog

Following are the benefits of performing the Downward-Facing Dog:

  • It promotes circulation. Together with the center becoming greater than the mind, the Downward-Facing Dog acts as a moderate inversion. At least one of these exercises is excellent for the circulatory system since it promotes blood circulation throughout the body. An energetic circulatory system will help you maintain your immune system, regulate blood pressure, and flush toxins out of the body. Additionally, the flow of blood into the mind calms the nervous system, boosts memory and concentration, and relieves stress. It also gives the advantages of inversion, like relieving you from migraines, sleeplessness, fatigue, and mild depression.
  • It eliminates stiffness and back pain. By doing the Downward-Facing Dog, the top back grows more elastic and less inclined to save as much tension. Additionally, it divides the backbone and creates distance between the vertebrae.
  • It stretches the human body. Among the most apparent advantages of practicing a Downward-Facing Dog is that it moves the entire body, especially your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, arches, hands, and spine.

The Downward-Facing Dog is one of yoga’s most popular poses, and that is for a good reason: Performing this pose provides numerous benefits, including improved blood circulation and stress and pain relief. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to perform, which is why beginners need to learn the basics of it first and master them. 

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