Downward facing dog pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana, is one of the most recognized poses in all of yoga. The foundational pose spans the hatha (alignment) and vinyasa (to place with intention, flow) traditions. All physical yoga actually falls under the banner of "Hatha" yoga which actually means vigorous yoga, however the term has also become synonymous with the alignment forms of the physical practice. Even non-yoga practitioners will likely recognize this upside down triangle shape as the yoga pose downward facing dog. The position may be taught as a stand alone position. It often shows up in moving forms of flow yoga (vinyasa) where the downward dog pose is practiced as part of a moving sequence such as in sun salutations (Surya Namaskra).
Downward facing dog pose is an inversion posture. An Inversion is characterized by any pose that has the head lower than the heart. As both hands press into the ground and push the floor away this pose sets the stage for hand balancing (aka. arm balancing) postures. The hinge at the hips (anterior tilt of the pelvis) folds the body forward so this position is also a forward fold.
How to do Downward Dog
Disclaimer- Always check with your qualified medical professional before beginning any exercise program to ensure if it is right for you. This pose is not for students with current wrist or shoulder injuries.
1.Begin in Table Position (On all fours, hands and knees. Spread the palms wide, stack the shoulders over wrists.)
2. Press back into Downward Dog
3.Hold and Breathe.
Switch back and forth between left and right leg.
Beginner Options/ Modifications:
Keep the knees on the ground and work the shape of the shoulders and core stability
Place the forearms on the ground (dolphin pose) to remove the wrists from the equation.
Bend the knees as you keep the upper body shape to take pressure off of the calves and hamstrings
One Leg Down Dog (Closed Hip Position)
Down Dog Split (Open Hip Position)
One Arm Along the Side Body
One arm reach through to twist
One arm, One Leg (Opposite side) Closed Hip Spinal Balance
One arm One leg Lifted Down Dog Twist
Standing Forward Fold
Table Top Pose
Upward Facing Dog
The downward facing dog pose is simple, but simple does not mean easy! It requires a combination of strength and mobility to access and hold the shape. Endurance is built over time, with consistency and a focused mind.
“I just know about sweat and frustration. And that what I once thought was impossible somehow doesn't always stay that way permanently. One day it's suddenly easy and accessible, and mostly because I've stopped struggling against it. I've just accepted where I am, keep showing up, and then the change just happens.”
― Edward Vilga, Downward Dog
Blog by Chris Loebsack 500hr ERYT
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