Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward-Facing Dog
This is one of the most important yoga asanas being a yoga foundation and we just can’t underrate its importance. This is a restorative posture we usually find in transitional vinyasa and it is the basis to perform other postures like one legged downward-facing dog, it is the starting point to perform warrior pose, high lunge and so much more. So, this is one of the most important posture for a beginner to start their journey with a strong foundation and to get ready to embark a vinyasa session with all the basis well covered.
Let’s take a closer look to this posture trying to understand its origins, benefits and how to perform this asana properly.
Origins and uses
In Sanskrit, Adho Mukha means face pointing down and Svana means dog; That’s why this asana is called dog position upside down and remembers a dog who is stretching the front paws, bringing the backs up.
Adho Mukha Svanasana can be used as:
- Transition position between two asana,
- To rest, if it is inserted and maintained between two particularly demanding sequences,
- To stretch the entire back of the body.
- Start by putting yourself on your hands and knees, taking cat’s pose. Align the wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Take the tip of the mat as reference: the index should be perpendicular and both hands palms should stick to the ground.
- Straighten your elbows and keep your back high back relaxed.
- Start pushing wide palms on the ground. As you push you try to distribute the body weight exactly to half, between your hands and your feet.
- Now, during exhalation, make a pin on your toes and raise your knees from the floor.
- Begin slowly to stretch your legs as far as you can and try to place your heels on the ground. If you cannot extend your bent legs and slightly raised heels, it’s normal that you will not be able to do it at first. By the time you do a constant practice you will see many improvements.
- As you are in the position, with your hands as strong as if to push the mat off, raise the assholes as far as possible to the sky and, in the meantime, push your heels to the ground.
With your head you can:
Look between your hands;
Look at the navel;
Leave it completely relaxed;
- Now explore Downward-facing dog by breathing deeply for as long as you want. Start with 5 breaths then increase. You can even rock your head to side to side with a little “yes or no” with your head to stretch a little bit. Be gentle to yourself and remember to breathe.
- To release the position, kindly release both knees and elbows and return to the starting position and relax in Balasana (Child’s pose).
As you may have seen, this posture may be quite challenging, especially when it comes to perform it with straight legs and heels on the ground. It is so normal not to be able to extend both legs at your early stages of your yoga journey. Accept that! You have to commit yourself to the practice, give yourself the time to adapt and to explore the positions and where you are at a specific moment. Don’t rush things. Don’t be too severe with yourself. Yoga is not like that. Listen to your body and respect what it is telling you by its signs. If you feel any pain during Downward-facing dog don’t push it too hard! Just put down your knees on the yoga mat and go restore the whole body with few moments in one of our most precious yoga posture: child’s pose. When you will feel ready to try again, go to downward-facing dog and be more gentle than before, taking the time you need, pedaling your legs and keeping your heels off the ground if you feel you have to. Yoga is all about that type of approach and you have to respect your body for that. A little reminder: this discipline will teach you how to honor your body for the things it can do and not blaming it for the things it can’t do so give it a try and be a part of this acceptance journey!
Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downard-facing dog is undoubtedly among the most practiced asanas and gives innumerable benefits to the practitioner.
- It gives energy to the whole body and rejuvenates it.
- Extend all the back of the body deeply, relieving any back pain.
- Strengthens both the legs and the arms.
- Relief for headache, insomnia and fatigue.
- The mild forms of depression disappear.
- There is a greater inflow of blood to the brain. This calms the nervous system and makes the stress disappear.
- Improves memory and concentration.
- Improves digestion
- With time the back pain of various types disappears.
- This word is also therapeutic for sinusitis, asthma, flat feet, and menopausal symptoms.
- It helps prevent osteoporosis.
- With time, even the symptoms of sciatica disappear.
Downward – facing dog is the one asana we just can’t skip during a yoga session. It stretches and strengthen the whole body and, if we learn how to perform it properly, we will feel so supported during the practice and so ready for what’s next to proceed with our own yoga journey, its growing intensity and its harder asanas.