Woman doing downward facing dog yoga pose. How to do downward facing dog effectively
Woman doing downward facing dog yoga pose. How to do downward facing dog effectively

How To Do Downward Facing Dog Pose Effectively

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Downward Facing Dog – Adho Muka Shvanasana

Adho = downward; mukha = face; shvana = dog

Classification: Symmetrical inverted arm support pose

Benefits:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes and rejuvenates the body
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Strengthens the arms, legs and core
  • Stretches out the hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and arches

Cautions:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • High blood pressure or headache modify by either supporting the head on a bolster or bringing your hands up to the edge of a couch or chair.
  • Pregnancy: do not do in late term
  • Diarrhea
Woman doing downward facing dog yoga pose on a black yoga mat

How to perform:

  1. Start on all fours, with your knees below your hips, feet hip width apart and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your fingers with your index fingers parallel, rooting both palms firmly into the mat while simultaneously tucking the toes under.
  2. As you exhale lift your knees away from the floor while lengthening through the spine. Think of lifting your sit bones toward the ceiling, creating an inverted V-shape with the body.
  3. Breathe in and with your exhalation slowly straighten out your knees (keeping a slight bend) Now begin to gently press your heels towards the floor. Do not worry if you cannot straighten out your knees or if your heels do not touch the floor… just do what is comfortable.
  4. Pressing your hands and base of the index fingers into the floor. Press out of your shoulders and think of lengthening. Keep the head between the upper arms; do not allow the head to hang.
  5. Stay in this pose up to 3 minutes. But start with a length of time that is comfortable. You can start with 30 seconds than come back to hands and knees for a break then try it again.

Modifications:

To decrease:

  • Place hands on a chair or edge of a couch
  • Keep knees bent
  • Only press heels as far as is comfortable
Woman doing modified downward facing dog yoga pose with her hands on a chair
Woman doing leg down downward facing dog yoga pose

To Increase:

  • Raise one leg up behind until it is parallel to your body. Keep toes pointed towards the floor and hips level. Repeat other side

Muscle / Joint Breakdown:

Contraction Joint Muscle(s) Notes
Concentric Spine Spinal Extensors & Flexors Stabilizing the spine to maintain neutral alignment.
Concentric Scapula Serratus Anterior Upward rotation & abduction on rib cage.
Concentric Shoulder Rotator Cuff Stabilization
Concentric Elbow Triceps Brachii Extension
Concentric Forearms Pronator Quadratus & Teres To pronate forearms.
Concentric Hands Intrinsic muscles of the wrist and hand To maintain the integrity of the hand.
Concentric Hip Adductor Magnus Internally rotate, adduct, and move femur back into the hip socket.
Concentric Knee Quadriceps & Articularis Genu Extension.
Concentric Foot Intrinsic muscles of the foot Maintain arches without inhibiting dorsi flexion of the ankle.
Eccentric Hip Hamstrings Preventing overarticulating of the hip joint. Stretching.
Isometric Once in position All muscles involved Position is held without movement.

Written by: Susan Manning 

Yoga Instructor demonstrator: Amy Owens

Works Cited: Kaminoff L., Matthew A.,2007. Yoga Anatomy second edition.
Long R. MD, FRCSC, 2008. Your Guide to Functional Anatomy in Yoga, The Key Poses of Yoga.
 Complement Ther Med. 2014 Apr;22(2):235-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.01.007. Epub 2014 Feb 4. Core Muscle Function during Specific Yoga Poses.
NCCIH Pub No.D472. October 2018. Yoga in Depth. 
2001. Muscle and Motion app. downward facing dog.

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