Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Benefits, Contraindications, Tips and How to Do

English Name(s)
Downward Facing Dog Pose
अधोमुखश्वानासन / Adho Mukha Śvānāsana
AH-doh MOO-kahshvah-NAHS-anna
Adho (अधः): means “downward”
Mukha (मुख): means “face”
Svana (श्वान): means “dog.”
Asana (आसन): means “pose” or “posture.”

Adho Mukha Svanasana at a Glance

Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) involves the shape of a dog stretching itself. This pose helps a person reduce heel stiffness and makes the legs strong and agile. Holding the posture for one minute energizes and rejuvenates the body. The pose is also practiced in the sun salutation sequence. The pose is practiced in Indian gymnastics.


  • The downward Dog-facing Pose stretches and strengthens various muscle groups including the arms, shoulders, legs, and back muscles, promoting good muscle tone and flexibility. It works on almost all the muscles and finally gives the practitioner a deeper stretch and flexibility.
  • Elongates the spine, improving spinal alignment and reducing stiffness in the upper body, as a natural V – V-shape has to be maintained during the final pose.
  • Regular practice of downward facing dog pose increases the flexibility of the hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons, and spine.
  • The pose encourages posture correction by improving spinal health, so people who have posture issues can practice the pose.
  • Slows down the heart thus maintaining cardiovascular health.
  • Aids digestion by stimulating the digestive organs.
  • Checks heavy menstrual flow and prevents hot flushes during menopause.
  • The downward-facing dog pose encourages better blood flow throughout the body, improving oxygen supply to muscles and organs.
  • The elongation of the spine and the strengthening of the back muscles can help alleviate mild back pain and discomfort due to increased blood circulation in these areas.
  • The downward-facing dog pose engages the core muscles and helps strengthen the abdominal organs, which is beneficial for overall core stability, thus solving digestive issues.

Who can do it?

All beginners, intermediate and advanced practitioners, people with basic flexibility, pregnant women (a modified version of this pose), and people with stress or anxiety can practice this pose.

Who Should not do it?

People with high Blood Pressure, recent shoulder injury, serious back conditions, stiff ankle joints, and late pregnancy should avoid the downward-facing dog pose.


Adho Mukho Svanasana (downward facing dog pose) involves the shape of a dog stretching itself. This pose helps a person reduce heel stiffness and makes the legs strong and agile. Holding the posture for one minute energizes and rejuvenates the body. The pose is also practiced in the sun salutation sequence. The pose is practiced in Indian gymnastics as dandasana.


Stimulates the Root chakra (Muladhara), Sacral chakra (Svadhishthana), Solar Plexus chakra (Manipura), and Heart chakra (Anahata). The pose teaches us to be grounded and creative at the same time. The pose helps to balance almost all the chakras by providing a better flow of prana within the body. It is therefore included in the Surya Namaskar series, which includes downward dog as one of the twelve asanas. In many other yoga practices, it is also included in the vinyasa series with the upward-facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).

Philosophy of Adho Mukha Svanasana

The downward-facing dog teaches us to surrender and accept by letting go of tensions, worries and concerns and trusting the process. Just as the dog stretches naturally, the pose invites a person to find a natural, effortless stretch and release in the body and a grounding effect. The pose represents the connection between a person and the earth. As the hands and the feet touch the ground, there is a grounding effect and presence in the present moment.

How to Do Adho Mukha Svanasana?

Follow the Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your yoga mat, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Lift your hips, tucking your toes and pressing your heels firmly towards the ground to come to the downward dog. Feel the stretch in your calf muscles.
  3. Spread your fingers wide with your middle finger pointing forward. Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart.
  4. Try to straighten your legs without forcing them. You can keep your knees bent too. If your hamstrings are tight.
  5. Lift your hips toward the ceiling and make a V-shape with the entire body. Keep your tailbone pointing up and backward in downward dog.
  6. Keep your head hanging between the two hands and hands shoulder width. You can keep your heels slightly up.
  7. ·Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and gaze towards your navel or between your thighs.
  8. Keep lengthening your spine from the tailbone to the crown of your head and involve a high upward rotation of sit bones.
  9. Avoid rounding your back. Press your chest towards your thighs and push your hips back. Engage your shoulder blades by pushing them down. You can keep your knees bent.
  10. Maintain slow, deep breathing throughout the practice and enhance the stretch.
  11. Hold the pose for a few breaths. Release the pose by gently bending your knees and returning to the tabletop position.

What are the Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana?

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana or the downward dog pose, promotes relaxation and can help reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue, calming the mind due to deep breathing throughout the pose.
  • The downward dog pose helps to clear the mind and enhance mental clarity and focus, as this is an inversion.
  • The downward dog pose energizes the body and mind, providing natural boosts by detoxifying the body and providing a better blood supply.
  • A deeper mind-body connection is maintained with the pose as it provides good blood circulation throughout the body.
  • The pose calms the nervous system, making it beneficial for all individuals experiencing restlessness or any kind of anxiety.
  • The pose has a calming effect and it strengthens the shoulder blades.
  • It can be used as a warming-up asana, as it helps to produce heat inside the body.
  • People who are looking to lose body fat.
  • For those who want to tone up and strengthen their muscles.
  • Core activation.
  • Prevention of Backache.

Health Conditions that Might Benefit from Adho Mukha Svanasana

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana aids digestion by stimulating the abdominal organs and helps in relieving digestive issues and bloating.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana reduces tension in the neck and shoulder joints and helps relieve headaches and migraines.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana strengthens lung capacity by deep breathing and opening the chest completely.
  • The pose encourages the movement of lymphatic fluid, thus aiding in the detoxification of the body.
  • It is a part of the restorative pose to relax and rewind the body.

Safety and Precautions

  • People with wrist injuries or conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome should avoid the pose.
  • People with uncontrolled people with high blood pressure should modify the pose or practice with a certified yoga teacher.
  • People with shoulder injuries should modify the pose or avoid
  • Pregnant women should modify the pose in the later stages.
  • People with severe back issues, spinal injury or sciatica should avoid the pose.
  • People with vertigo or dizziness should avoid the pose.
  • People with Glaucoma should avoid the pose as it may increase eye pressure.
  • People with carpal tunnel syndrome should modify their pose.

Common Mistakes

  • Do not round your shoulders or strain your neck and shoulders. Try to lengthen your spine and push your chest towards your thighs.
  • Open your chest by broadening across the collarbones.
  • Relax your shoulders, and keep them engaged. Placing your hands too far forward or inward and not spreading your fingers can cause wrist injury.
  • Avoid locking your knees. Keep them gentle. Maintain a little bend to avoid knee injury.
  • Do not struggle to get the heels down the floor. Work on lengthening the spine. Try with straight legs.
  • Do not allow your weight to fall on your shoulders. Distribute your weight evenly to your palms and involve the muscles of the arms.
  • Keep your hips neutral, maintaining the alignment of the pose.
  • Do not lift your tailbone too high, causing strain to your lower back. Work according to your flexibility and modify as needed.

Tips for Adho Mukha Svanasana

  • Always start your yoga practice with a gentle warm-up to stretch the spine on your yoga mat. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
  • Keep your neck relaxed and try to lengthen the spine with breathing. Maintain slow deep breathing throughout the practice.
  • Do not jump into the V-pose. Avoid rounding your shoulder blades. Use yoga blocks whenever needed under your head or hands.
  • You can bend your knees if your hamstrings are too tight and then work on flexibility with practice.
  • You can use a yoga block or rolled blanket under your hands or your head to maintain proper alignment if not comfortable hanging it freely.
  • For a deeper stretch, you can take your feet closer to your hands in the dog pose.
  • You can do variations for deeper practice and work on the width of your stance and the position of your hands with straight legs.

Adho Mukha Svanasana and Breath

  • Take deep inhalations as you prepare for the Adho Mukha Svanasana pose.
  • Lift your hips and straighten your legs by exhaling through your nose. Engage your core.
  • Maintain steady and even breaths. Keep your spine straight. The pose is full body stretch.
  • Focus on lengthening your spine while inhaling and reaching your hips towards the ceiling.
  • Find stability in the pose by proper exhalations to release any tension in the muscles.
  • While transitioning out of the pose coordinate the movements with breaths. This is the key to a deeper practice.

Physical Alignment Principles of Adho Mukha Svanasana

  • Keep your spine straight and body relaxed while in pose. Take deep breathing, engage your core, and relax your shoulders and neck.
  • Focus on elongating your spine and moving further down towards the floor in the pose with deep breathing.
  • Keep your legs straight or bent but firm on the floor. Keep your arms stretched during the pose.

Deepening the Pose

  • The foot and leg work is essential to deepen Adho Mukha Svanasana.
  • Hands should work as much as feet to maintain the integrity and the V-shaped arch. Keep your spine to neutral extension.
  • The pose is an inversion. The inhale and exhale have to be deep for deepening the pose. Maintaining the lower abdomen action during inhalation and thoracic organs should be encouraged to mobilize, which is challenging, but it will be attained with practice.
  • You can use yoga blocks to deepen the pose. You can keep a yoga block under your head instead of hanging it freely towards the ground. This will support your neck, too and help in the overall alignment of the pose. With consistent practice and more flexibility, the head can touch the ground towards the knees.
  • You can also keep a yoga block under your hands to maintain the deep stretch of the spine and then work on deepening the pose by proper breathing technique.

Adho Mukha Svanasana Variations

  • You can lift one leg extending towards the ceiling while the other is on the ground to get the legged downward-facing dog. This stretch increases the stretch on the lifted leg and the hips.
  • Here, you can extend your leg at the back, straighten it instead of lifting it, and open your hips to get a three-legged, downward-facing dog variation.
  • You can bend your knees for tight hamstrings or lower your forearms like in dolphin pose, maintaining the position of your hips and legs. This strengthens your upper back, shoulders, and hips.
  • You can bend one knee and lift the heel of the other foot, pressing it down towards the floor. This variation stretches the Achilles tendon and calf of the stretched leg.
  • You can lower your chest as in puppy pose keeping your hips upwards. Your arms remain stretched in front. This stretches your shoulders and back.
  • You can use a wall the support the stretch for your hands. You can also add a twist to your torso by lifting one arm and extending the lifted arm towards the ceiling. This adds to the spinal flexibility.
  • Practice Adho Mukha Svanasana with your fingertips instead of your palms to get a stretch on your wrists. You can practice it as a resting pose for five deep breaths.
  • You can bend one knee and open your hip outward, pointing your knee towards the ceiling. This variation stretches your hip flexors and groin.
  • You can practice the pose with eagle legs too.
  • You can also slightly draw one knee towards your chest around your back.

Preparatory Poses

Follow-Up Poses

Take Away

Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog Pose is a great way to start your yoga practice by stretching and strengthening the body. It is also therapeutic in nature and helps relieve stress, mild depression, the symptoms of menopause, headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue. It is a versatile pose that can be modified to fit everyone’s needs. So give it a try today.

The path to becoming a certified yoga instructor begins here! Our yoga teacher training courses are thoughtfully designed to cater to both aspiring and experienced yogis. Whether you’re looking to deepen your personal practice or embark on a rewarding career in yoga instruction, our multistyle 200-Hrs Yoga Teacher Training Course offers the perfect stepping stone. For those seeking an advanced exploration of yoga, our 300-Hrs Yoga Teacher Training and 500-Hrs Yoga Teacher Training Programs present unparalleled opportunities to expand your knowledge and expertise. All our courses are Yoga Alliance, USA-certified, ensuring you receive the highest standard of training. Embrace the journey of self-discovery and professional growth – Enroll now!

online yoga teacher training 2024
Meera Watts
Meera Watts is the owner and founder of Siddhi Yoga International. She is known worldwide for her thought leadership in the wellness industry and was recognized as a Top 20 International Yoga Blogger. Her writing on holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and other international magazines. She got the Top 100 Entrepreneur of Singapore award in 2022. Meera is a yoga teacher and therapist, though now she focuses primarily on leading Siddhi Yoga International, blogging and spending time with her family in Singapore.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get in Touch

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Contact on WhatsApp