Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a dynamic yoga pose that balances extremes.
Restful and energetic. Inverted and grounded. Lengthening and strengthing! Down Dog has a little something for every body. Here are a few tips on how to enjoy and explore this pose using your FeetUp Trainer.
Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana
- (Aah-doh MOO-kah sva-NAH-sah-na)
- Adho = downward / Mukha = face / Svana = dog / Asana = pose
Benefits of Downward Facing Dog
- Helps open tight shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and ankles.
- Lengthen and strengthens your back, legs, arms, and hands.
- A relatively accessible inversion with grounded feet.
- Eventually becomes an "active" rest pose during most vinyasa classes.
- Energizing after long periods of inactivity (office work, driving, video gaming)
Precautions to Consider
- Can easily stress tight lower backs & shoulders for those new to the pose.
- Incorrect hand position can tweak wrists and shoulders.
- Tight hamstrings and ankles make it nearly impossible to drop the heels to the floor.
- Tight shoulders can result in a rounded upper back, which in turns effects the overall "straight line" between the head and the hips.
- Sweaty palms and feet make this pose nightmarish (same with baggy shirts)
- Make sure your FeetUp Trainer is on a stable surface without the possibility of sliding to ensure total comfort when pouring your full weight into the pose.
There are two basic variations to practice downward facing dog with the FeetUp Trainer: Active (fully extended) and Passive (supported).
Variation 1: Extended Down Dog (Active)
With the trainer at the front of your mat, enjoy a supported standing Forward Fold. Place your hands on the parallel arms of the frame and bending the knees while having your feet wide enough to allow your head to hang comfortably.
Two options for hand placement:
- Peace fingers forward towards the cushion with thumbs inward and pinky/middle fingers curled around the outside of the frame.
- Thumbs turned forward, fingers wrapped around the outside of the frame.
In both cases, the base of the palm should be feel comfortably supported and in line with the rest of the hand. Although some enjoy having the hands grip the rounded front corners of the frame, this may cause extra pressure on the wrists.
Inhale: With hands firmly planted on the frame, begin pouring weight into the Trainer from the shoulders through your forearms while lifting your chest parallel to the floor.
Exhale: Keep hands firmly planted on the frame as you step your feet towards the back of the mat. Heels should be set back past hips to ensure that weight is pouring forward through the arms and trainer into the ground. Keep a neutral neck with ears in line with biceps and your gaze towards the front crossbar of the frame. From the outside it should look like an inverted V. Depending on how open your hips and hamstrings are, it may feel like an inverted BLARGH on the inside.
Alignment Tips for Extended Down Dog
- Try lining up the knuckles of your pointer and ring fingers with the outsides of the wrist.
- With ears in line with arms, rotate elbow creases in an upward towards the ceiling.
- Lengthen the top of your head towards the cushion
- Draw the navel up and in away from your shirt, towards the spine
- Imagine your ankles are connected by a skewer parallel to the floor to level them out.
- Unlock both knees and lengthen the sit bones upward away from your heels.
- Tight shoulders and/back? Try adjusting the distance of your feet from the trainer.
Variation 2: Supported Down Dog (Passive)
Supported Downward Facing Dog is a calming foundation for longer holds where you can focus on release releasing tension and observing internal alignment.
Begin by kneeling with the trainer directly in front of you, both hands resting on the top of the frame in front of the cushion. Lower your head through the cushion, making sure to give the back of your neck plenty of space by resting your collarbones toward the front edge.
Pause here, looking at your knees and keeping your elbows gently hugged in towards your ribs as they stay stacked above your wrists. Take a few deep breaths and let those collarbones begin to sink into the cushion.
On an inhale, tuck your toes. As you slowly begin to exhale, lift your hips by extending your legs and pressing gently down through your hands for control. Your shoulders should stay connected to the cushion as you slowly walk your feet forward towards your face until a comfortable distance is found.
Alignment Tips for Supported Down Dog
- Unlocking your knees.
- Changing the width of your feet.
- Slowly lifting or lowering your head
- Gently rotating your head from side to side.
- Do absolutely nothing besides relaxing your neck and breathing deep.
- Listen to your body and slowly explore whatever range of motion feels appropriate!
Advancing your practice
Supported Downward Facing Dog is a GREAT place to start acclimating your body for longer inverted holds, especially if you feel pressure in your head doing full inversions with feet off the ground. Try practicing a few rounds of 5 to 10 long, slow breaths in this pose. Only stay up for as long as you feel comfortable and take a break in child's pose between each round. You may find that all your body needs is a couple days of practicing inversions with grounded feet in order to feel more comfortable with your legs lifted!
The most important key to enjoying Down Dog (extended or supported) is PATIENCE...which, for those just starting out, might be in itself a huge challenge. How long the process will take for you to make the jump from torture pose to rest posture depends on two very important things:
- Your body’s ability to release long-held patterns of tension while building the strength necessary to create a new shape.
- Your mind’s capacity to accept potential doubt and move past whatever frustration that will undoubtedly arise during the process.
Remember to listen to your body and go at your own pace. This article outlines a variety of suggestions and variations to inform your self-practice. Individual results may vary!