What is Downward Facing Dog Pose?
Downward Dog Pose and Downward-facing Dog Pose is also known as Adho Mukha Shvanasana. Downward-facing Dog Pose is an inversion asana in modern yoga as exercise which is often practiced as part of a flowing sequence of poses especially Surya Namaskar which means the Salute to the Sun. The asana does not have formally named variations but several playful variants are used to assist beginning practitioners to become comfortable in the pose.
Downward Dog stretches the hamstring and calf muscles in the backs of the legs and builds strength in the shoulders. Some popular sites have advised against it during pregnancy but an experimental study of pregnant women found it beneficial. Downward Dog has been called “deservedly one of yoga’s most widely recognized yoga poses” and the “quintessential yoga pose”.
As such it is often the asana of choice when yoga is depicted in film, literature, and advertising. The pose has frequently appeared in Western culture including in the titles of novels, a painting, and a television series and that is implied in the name “YOGΛ” of a foldable computer. The name comes from the pose’s similarity to the way a dog stretches when getting up.
The Sanskrit name is from adhas meaning “down”, mukha meaning “face”, svana meaning “dog”, and asana meaning “posture” or “seat”.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of Downward Facing Dog Pose
- 2 - How To Do Downward Facing Dog Pose
- 3 - Benefits of Doing Downward Facing Dog Pose
- 4 - Common Mistakes While Performing Downward Dog Pose
- 5 - Precautions of Downward Facing Dog Pose
Origin of Downward Facing Dog Pose
The name downward facing dog pose is not found in medieval hatha yoga texts but a similar posture Gajasana (Elephant Pose) was described in the 18th-century Hațhabhyasapaddhati the text calls for it to be repeated “over and over again” from a prone position. Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi popularised the Sun Salutation in his 1928 book. The sequence uses Downward Dog Pose twice.
A similar pose together with a 5-count format and a method of jumps between poses resembling Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga’s system was described in Niels Bukh’s early 20th century Danish text Primitive Gymnastics which in turn was derived from a 19th-century Scandinavian tradition of gymnastics. The system had arrived in India by the 1920s. Indian gymnastics too had a system of postures called “dands” linked by jumps and one of the bands is close to Downward Dog.
In addition, in the 1920s, Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi who is the Rajah of Aundh popularized and named the practice of Surya Namaskar describing it in his 1928 book The Ten-Point Way to Health: Surya Namaskars. Downward Dog appears twice in its sequence of 12 postures. Neither the dand exercises nor Surya Namaskar was considered to be yoga in the 1930s.
Swami Kuvalayananda incorporated Downward Dog into his system of exercises in the early 1930s from where it was taken up by his pupil the influential yoga teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. He in turn taught B. K. S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois who were the founders of Iyengar Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga respectively.
How To Do Downward Facing Dog Pose
Some of the steps to do Downward Facing Dog Pose are given below:
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
- Spread your fingers wide and press firmly into the mat.
- Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back, forming an inverted V shape with your body.
- Keep your arms straight and press your chest towards your thighs.
- Engage your core and press your shoulder blades down your back.
- Lift your heels off the ground and press your thighs back.
- Relax your neck and head and look towards your navel.
- Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds.
- To release, exhale and slowly lower your knees to the ground.
- Finish by sitting in a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths.
Benefits of Doing Downward Facing Dog Pose
Some of the steps of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose are given below:
- Increases flexibility in the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings
- Strengthens the arms, legs, and core
- Improves posture and balance
- Stimulates the digestive system and organs
- Relieves stress and fatigue
- Calms the mind and relieves mild depression
- Relieves headaches and insomnia
- Improves circulation and energizes the body
- Helps to relieve symptoms of menopause
- Enhances overall physical and mental wellbeing
Tones your core
The first benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose is tones your core. The pose works several muscles of your body and engages your core. Adho Mukha Svanasana tones your lower abdominal region.
You can do this asana to strengthen your core and shed fat from your abdomen.
Strengthens your bones
The second benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose strengthens your bones. Adho Mukha Svanasana is a weight-bearing exercise and will strengthen your bones. Practicing this pose will make your upper body strength and this will in turn help manage or prevent osteoporosis.
The downward-facing dog position gently works your shoulders.
Works the back of your legs
The third benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose is Works the back of your legs. Not just your spine but your calves and hamstrings will feel the stretch. You need to work the muscles at the back of your legs as you spend your day walking or standing.
Adho Mukha Svanasana will open the back of your legs and stretch it.
Improves blood flow to the brain
The fourth benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose is to improve blood flow to the brain. You are in an inverted V position which means your heart is above your head. This will improve blood flow to your head.
This will enhance your focus and energy. Daily practice of this yoga asana will give your relief from tension in the neck and will charge you up.
Strengthens your arms
The fifth benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose is to strengthen your arms. Adho Mukha Svanasana is a great asana for improving the strength of your upper body. Especially, this asana is for your arms.
Make sure to press your palms against your mat and engage the muscles of your arms. Do this regularly and you will see your arms becoming stronger and toned.
Improves your body posture
The sixth benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose is to improve your body posture. A sedentary life can be bad news for your posture but you can improve the slumpy posture by practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana. The asana will open your shoulders and will lengthen your spine.
It will also ease back and neck pain.
Stretches your back
The seventh and the last benefit of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose is to stretches your back. The downward facing dog pose will stretch your back and help ease back pain. The stretching of the spine will improve oxygen supply to different parts of the body.
Practicing the pose every day will help you to stay strong and happy. Adho Mukha Svanasana is beneficial for your entire body. So, get your mat and start practicing.
Common Mistakes While Performing Downward Dog Pose
Some of the common mistakes while performing Downward Facing Dog Pose are given below:
Rounding the Back
The first common mistake while performing Downward Facing Dog Pose is rounding the back. Many of us round their back while performing this asana, but, it is wrong. You have to keep you back straight so that the muscles of your back and spines are stretches and toned.
Bending the Knees
The second common mistake while performing Downward Facing Dog Pose is bending the knees. This is a common mistake people do while practicing this asana. They bend their knees for better comfort.
But bending the knees eliminates the stretch and focus form the muscles of thighs and hips. So remember to keep your knees straight, neither bend them nor lock them.
Bending the Palms
The third and the last common mistake while performing Downward Facing Dog Pose is bending the palms. Many people bend their palms and form a cup-like structure with their palm for comfort. In other words, they lift their knuckles a bit and raise the center of the palm.
Precautions of Downward Facing Dog Pose
Some of the precautions of doing Downward Facing Dog Pose are given below:
- Remove all the ornaments such as a watch or bracelet before performing this asana.
- Do not overstretch your body in this asana. Understand and listen to the limits of your body, otherwise, you might end up getting an injury.
- If you have a recent or a deep injury in your wrist, shoulders, back, or legs, do not perform this asana at all.
Avoid this asana if you are suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Do not practice Downward Dog Pose if you are having any kind of illness such as fever and headache.