Dolphin Pose
March 31, 2015
Dragonfly Pose
March 31, 2015

Downward-Facing Dog

LEVEL

Anatomy

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Pose Type

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Sanskrit

Adho Mukha Svanasana
(AH-doh MOO-kah shva-NAH-sun-uh)
adho = downward
mukha = face
svana = dog 

BENEFITS

  • Stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calves
  • Strengthens your ankles, quadriceps, and shoulders
  • Tones your abdominal muscles
  • Decompresses the spinal column
  • Removes fatigue

CONTRAINDICATIONS

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye or inner ear infection
  • Late-term pregnancy

HOW TO

  1. Come into a tabletop (hands and knees) position.
  2. Spread your fingers and bring your wrist crease parallel to the front of your mat. Press downward into your hands. Pay special attention to root the index finger and thumb.
  3. Curl your toes under and lift your hips up and back, creating an inverted “V” shape with your body.
  4. Place your feet hip-width distance apart and your hands shoulder-width distance apart.
  5. Press down and forward through the knuckles and rotate your biceps forward. Squeeze your elbows toward each other and lift the inner armpit.
  6. Root your shoulder blades against your back ribs.
  7. Draw your belly button in towards your spine.
  8. Firm your quadriceps and slightly rotate the inner thighs back. Press your heels toward the floor.
  9. Relax your neck and rest your gaze toward your ankles.

MODIFY OR REPLACE

  • Tight shoulders: Place your hands wider than your shoulders and angle your fingers out toward the corner of your mat.
  • Tight hamstrings: Bend your knees or take your legs further apart.
  • Wrist sensitivity: Go on your forearms or place hands on a wedge-shaped block.

SEQUENCING TIPS

  • Anytime in your sequence
  • Especially nice after deep backbends

TEACHING CUES

  • Spread your fingers and draw your forearms together.
  • Lift your hips and press down through your heels.
  • Engage your core.

VARIATIONS

WATCH OUT FOR

  • Arching or rounding of the back
  • Hyperextension in the knees or elbows
  • Hunching shoulders