Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Benefits, Contraindications, Tips and How to Do

English Name(s)
Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog Pose
Sanskrit
अधोमुखश्वानासन / Adho Mukha Śvānāsana
Pronunciation
AH-doh MOO-kahshvah-NAHS-anna
Meaning
adhas: “down”
mukha: “facing”
svana: “dog”
āsana: “posture”

Introduction

Adho Mukha Svanasana (AH-doh MOO-kahshvah-NAHS-anna) is a rejuvenating pose after a strenuous yoga practice, especially standing poses and back extensions. Healthy blood is brought to the head, nourishing the brain. This pose stretches and strengthens the feet, legs, and arms, and opens shoulders. It relieves pain in the heels and helps with calcaneal spurs while strengthening the abdominal organs. It is a great pose to prepare beginner students for Headstand.

Studies based on different Yoga postures have shown that the pose has various benefits for physical, mental, and spiritual health. They help in stretching different parts of the body like the spine, hips, upper back muscles, etc. which in turn improves blood circulation to those areas and results in healthy functioning of organs situated there.

Muscle Focus

Downward-Facing Dog Pose focuses on several muscles such as

  • Core Muscle Group (Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, internal and external obliques, and multifidus)
  • Arm muscles (Deltoids, Biceps & triceps)
  • Back Muscles (Rhomboids)
  • Leg Muscles (Glutes, Tibialis Anterior)
  • Calf Muscles (Gastrocnemius)

Ideal For Health Conditions

  • 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.

Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog Pose

1. Strengthens the Legs and Arms

The strengthening of the legs and arms in Downward Dog Pose comes from having to press the entire length of the body away from the floor while keeping the legs and arms straight.

2. Stretches the Hamstrings, Calves, Arms, and Opens Shoulders

While in Downward Dog Pose, gravity pulls your heels toward the floor, which stretches your hamstrings, calves, arms, and opens shoulders and Achilles tendons. The position of your arms stretches the muscles in your shoulders and also helps to open up the chest.

3. Calms the Brain

Downward Dog Pose calms the brain by relieving stress and mild depression.

4. Relieves the Symptoms of Menopause

Downward Dog Pose is said to be therapeutic for the symptoms of menopause by relieving hot flashes and night sweats. It is also said to help with menstrual discomfort when done with the head supported.

5. Therapeutic in Nature

It is also said to be therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, and sinusitis.

6. Warms up the Ankles and Toes

The pose also warms up the ankles and toes and increases the range of motion.

7. Versatile in Nature

Adho Mukha Svanasana is a versatile pose that can be modified to fit everyone’s needs.

8. Can be used to Warm up the Entire Body

This pose can also be used to warm up the entire body for a more strenuous yoga practice.

9. Nourishes Brain

The pose also helps to bring fresh blood and oxygen to the brain, which can help to improve cognitive function.

Contraindications

Those with any wrist injury or pain should avoid this pose. Use the rope wall to relieve weight from the wrist. Those with high blood pressure should not hold this pose for more than 30 seconds.

Variations

  • 3 Legged Downward Facing Dog Pose
  • Revolved Downward Facing Dog Pose

Preparatory Pose

  • Ardha Pincha Mayurasana (Dolphin Pose)
  • Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
  • Bharmanasana (Table Top Position or All Fours)

Beginner’s Tips

  • If you find the pose to be too strenuous, stay in the pose for only a few breaths before slowly lowering back down to the tabletop position.
  • Make sure to lengthen your spine as much as you can to avoid putting stress on your lower back.
  • If you are a beginner, don’t worry if you can’t touch your heels to the floor. Just work on getting as close to the floor as you can.
  • If you are pregnant, avoid coming into Downward Dog Pose altogether.

How to do Makara Downward-Facing Dog

  • Begin in the tabletop position with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
  • Inhale as you tuck your toes under and lift your hips up into the air, coming into Downward Dog Pose.
  • Press your heels toward the floor as you lengthen through the spine, making sure to keep your arms and legs straight.
  • Hold for five breaths before slowly lowering back down to the tabletop position.
  • Repeat three times.

Mental Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog

  • Stress relief
  • Mild depression relief
  • Increased focus

Bottom Line

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.

1 sources
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336942/
Meera Watts
Meera Watts is the owner and founder of Siddhi Yoga. She is known around the world for her thought leadership in the wellness industry and was also 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. Meera is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, though now she focuses primarily on leading Siddhi Yoga, blogging and spending time with her family in Singapore.

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