What is the Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) In Yoga? Correct Form, Technique, Benefits and Common Mistakes

Downward facing dog pose (Adho mukha svanasana) in yoga is a basic full-body stretch move. (Photo by Elina Fairytale via pexels)
Downward facing dog pose (Adho mukha svanasana) in yoga is a basic full-body stretch move. (Photo by Elina Fairytale via pexels)

Downward facing dog pose (Adho mukha svanasana) in yoga, also known as a downdog or downward dog, is a beginner-level yoga move that tones the legs and arms, opens the shoulders in flexion, stretches the calves and lengthens the hamstrings. One of the most widely recognized poses, the downward facing dog improves blood circulation and strengthens the core muscles, while providing an effective full-body stretch.

Downward facing dog pose is one of the first and foundational poses that you’ll learn as you start your yoga session. This pose is particularly practiced in Vinyasa yoga, but you are likely going to practice this move countless times throughout your yoga journey.

Since this pose is equal parts stretching and strengthening, doing it regularly can surely help develop better flexibility and balance throughout your body. You just need to perform it correctly with proper form and technique.


How to do the downward facing dog pose (Adho mukha svanasana) in yoga? Correct form and technique

  • Lay out a yoga mat and take a position on all your fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Keep your toes inside and slowly push your body back through your hands. Lift your hips and straighten your legs.
  • Now ground down from your forearms into your fingertips and spread your fingers.
  • Rotate your upper arms in the outward direction and broaden your collarbones.
  • Move your shoulders away from your ears and let your head hang in a stable position.
  • Engage your quads and take the weight of your body off your arms.
  • Gently rotate your thighs inward, keep your heels towards the floor and make sure to keep your spine high.
  • Come forward to a plank position.
  • Breathe easily. As you exhale, bend your knees and again come back to your hands and legs.
  • Repeat.

For more comfort, you may use a yoga block under your hands or a folded blanket under your wrists.

Check out this video for your reference:

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Benefits of the downward facing dog pose

The downward dog pose is considered a very effective full-body stretch that offers several benefits, including:

  • Stretches the entire lower body
  • Improves overall body posture
  • Strengthens the upper body and aids blood flow
  • Tones the leg muscles

Additionally, this yoga pose also helps strengthen the external oblique abdominal muscles. When incorporated into a regular yoga practice, the downward facing dog pose may even help relieve back pain.


Common mistakes to avoid

To ensure the safety and effectiveness of the downward dog pose, watch out for these errors:

1) Your toes should always point towards the front. It is very common to turn your feet out while performing this pose, so be very careful about your toe position and make sure to keep it pointed out to the front.

2) Your feet should be at a hip-width distance to maintain proper stability. Very often, beginners keep their feet either too wide or too narrow. Both positions are wrong. The correct position is to maintain a hip-width distance between both your feet.

3) A very common mistake beginners make while practicing the downward facing dog pose is that they don’t release their heels on the ground. To avoid this mistake, make sure you are pushing your hips back throughout the pose and your heels are firmly pushed down onto the floor.

4) To keep your butt in the right position, ensure you bend your knees and raise your body to come up on the balls of your feet. Let your belly rest on your thighs and keep your sitting bones high. Straighten your legs and push your heels while keeping your sitting bones as high as possible.

5) If your body is way too flexible, try not to allow your rib cage to bend towards the floor. To maintain a flat spine, make sure to draw your rib cage in.


Bottom line

The downward facing dog pose is not recommended for people with wrist, leg or hand injuries or women who are pregnant, especially in their last trimester. This pose should also be avoided if you have heart disease, slipped disc, hypertension or vertigo. It is always best to consult a doctor or a certified yoga trainer before starting your yoga session.

Edited by Sabine Algur