Uta’s Insights: Yoga Pose of the Week—3. Downward-Facing Dog Pose

June 22, 2014 By Uta Pippig

Downward-Facing Dog Pose—Adho Mukha Svanasana

Downward-Facing Dog pose—Adho Mukha Svanasana. © Tim DeFrisco
Downward-Facing Dog pose—Adho Mukha Svanasana. © Tim DeFrisco

Adho Mukha Svanasana is a great pose for warming up or cooling down after athletic workouts. I especially enjoy practicing this asana after easy jogging when my muscles are warmed-up and ready for a yoga session. It is an effective stretch for my hamstrings, calves, and lower back—and a great chest opener. I so much enjoy the challenge this multi-stretch presents.

Downward-Facing Dog pose is fantastic for lengthening the hamstrings and calves. It also opens the chest and stretches and strengthens the shoulders, belly, and back. And it aids in releasing tension in the body, especially along the spine and neck.

In addition, because the head is lower than the heart, there is an increased blood circulation to the head that nourishes the brain cells.

How to practice the Downward-Facing Dog pose:

  1. Start at the front of the yoga mat in Mountain pose. Exhale as you bend down and go to your hands and knees―hands under the shoulder, knees under the hips, and fingers spread and rooted on the mat with the middle fingers pointed straight ahead.
  2. With your next exhalation, tuck your toes under and, leading from the belly, slowly lift the pelvis to form an inverted V with the body. Your feet should remain about hip-width apart.
  3. Inhale and, on the next exhalation, move your chest towards your thighs as you press the sitting bones and bottom upward, lengthening out the spine. As the palms of your hands press into the floor, your heels are pressing downward towards the mat with your toes facing straight ahead. The muscles of the backs of your legs will be stretched, but the knees are not locked.
  4. Now focus on your upper body: Rotate the shoulders externally so your upper arms move away from your ears while your head comes closer to the mat. Allow your neck to stretch and lengthen. Breathe evenly for several breaths and feel the multiple sensations in the different areas of your body. Step forward slowly, one foot at a time, coming out of the pose on your next inhalation.



Reading Suggestions:

  1. Yoga for Performancesm: Introduction
  2. Uta’s Insights: Yoga Pose of the Week—4. Warrior Two

Updated July 13, 2016

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