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Downward Facing Dog (Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Rachelle Hicks By Rachelle Hicks Published on November 19, 2015

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Suggested song to practice with: “Black Eyed Dog” by Nick Drake

What it is:

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Benefits:

  • Awakens the body
  • Aids in mood regulation (good for depression, anxiety, stress, etc.)
  • Builds strength in arms, legs, and shoulders
  • Helps with respiratory, sinus, and allergy challenges
  • Rejuvenates the spine and helps to find proper vertebral alignment
  • Prevention of osteoporosis
  • Good practice for engagement of Mula Bhanda

Safety points:

  • Care with delicate or injured wrists and ankles
  • Practice the pose gently with low or high blood pressure—go into the pose slowly and come out slowly.
  • Avoid if pregnant and in third trimester

How to do it:

The most common way of entering this pose is through a Sun Salutation sequence. However, you can just as effectively and safely start in basic Tabletop Pose with knees bent and palms placed flat on the floor with fingers spread wide. Knees should be bent, either placed on the floor or hovering with the weight on the balls and toes of the feet.

Make sure that your whole hand is flat on the mat. Try to distribute your effort evenly throughout the palm, fingers, and fingertips. If you have not already done so, tuck the toes under and maintain bent knees as you exhale and lift your hips toward the sky.

Walk the knees out so as not to strain the hamstrings (calf muscles) and create space in the feet and ankle joints. Push into the floor with the hands, toes and balls of the feet, distributing the weight evenly. Imagine that you are gripping the mat with the middle of your palm and fingertips to gain full use of the hand on the mat.

To ensure that the shoulders are not holding tension, roll the shoulders towards the ears and back down the spine, allowing the shoulder blades to hug around the upper ribs. Engage the muscles of the arms and check that you are not hyper extending or hyper flexing the elbows.

Breathe into the upper spine and back ribs, and then exhale, drawing the upper chest toward the floor and pulling the lower ribs into the core.

If it is part of your practice, engage the Mula Bhanda (pelvic floor muscles) so that the effort is also coming from the core rather than just the arms and legs.

Focus the gaze between the knees so that your ears are between the upper arms and your neck is in line with your spine.

When you have found a strong, comfortable alignment, play with the flexibility in your legs and draw the ankles toward the mat while engaging the calf and thigh muscles and drawing the knees back to the wall behind you.

Breathe in this pose and see where you can distribute your strength and let go of tension.

To come out, exhale, bend the knees and place them on the floor. Untuck the toes and allow your belly to relax over the thighs. Drop the head toward the knees and allow the arms to rest down the length of the mat, or alongside your body in Child’s Pose.

Rachelle Hicks is a writer and yoga teacher who spends her time story-crafting and exploring the brilliant relationship between the body and mind. She enjoys copious amounts of coffee, learning ... Show More

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