3 Benefits of Downward Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

Downward Dog is one of the basic yoga poses for developing upper body strength and core stability. It serves the purpose of preparing you for the the more difficult asanas down the road. At the bottom is a link for a routine with this pose for you to develop you flow.

How to

  1. Come to your hands and knees with the wrists underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and push back through your hands to lift your hips and straighten your legs.
  3. Spread your fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips.
  4. Rotate your upper arms outward to broaden the collarbones.
  5. Let your head hang and move your shoulder blades away from your ears towards your hips.
  6. Engage your quadriceps strongly to take the burden of your body’s weight off your arms. This action goes a long way toward making this a resting pose.
  7. Rotate your thighs inward, keep your tail high, and sink your heels towards the floor.
  8. Check that the distance between your hands and feet is correct by coming forward to a plank position. The distance between the hands and feet should be the same in these two poses. Do not step the feet toward the hands in order to get the heels to the floor.
  9. Exhale and bend your knees to release and come back to your hands and knees.

Common mistake done while practicing downward dog: The most common issue with beginner’s Downward Dog poses is that they don’t release their heels toward the floor. If you are up on the balls of your feet, it shifts the trajectory of the pose forward instead of back. It will never be a resting position unless you take your weight back into your heels. This doesn’t mean that the heels have to touch the floor; they just have to be moving in that direction. Keep that feeling in mind and use it to adjust yourself.

Benefits

  1. Helps you to build strong bones: Downward Dog is a great way to strengthen the upper extremities and build bone density, as it is considered a weight-bearing exercise.
  2. Stronger legs & feet: Downward Dog provides a great ankle and calf stretch. It also strengthens lots of smaller stabilizing muscles in the foot. Once you’ve settled into Downward Dog, try pedaling your feet (bending your knee and ankle while lifting your heel up, one foot at a time) to deepen the stretch.
  3. Energizes the body & calms the brain: Downward dog is a very basic inversion and great for beginners since most other inversions are somewhat a bit challenging. When you have your head below your heart, you will bring blood flow to brain. This position is great for lifting your energy and helping you focus. As you let your head hang long you will also release any tension in your neck area.

Contraindication

This pose isn’t recommended if you have a wrist injury or carpal tunnel syndrome, or if you are in the last trimester of pregnancy. It should not be done if you have a condition in which you should not allow your head to be below the level of your heart, such as high blood pressure, detached retina, or recent dental bone grafts.

Pro Tip: If you have difficulty releasing and opening your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on a pair of blocks or the seat of a folding chair.