Downward Facing Dog Pose / Adho Mukha Svanasana
Step by step
- From all fours (on your hands and knees) bring your hands slightly forward of your shoulders.
- Middle finger pointing forward with your fingers spread,
- Firm your hands down, pressing through the outer edges of the palm and the finger tips - imagine clawing into the ground to create a little suction cup of air in the middle of your palm (Hasta Bandha).
- Keep your upper arms and shoulders rotated outwards while your forearms rotate in.
- Tuck your toes under (feet are hip distance apart).
- On an exhalation, engage your lower belly drawing the navel back to the spine. Press the floor away from you, lift your hips back and up to push yourself back into an upside-down V pose.
- Keep your knees initially bent to lengthen the spine, taking the hips up and away from you. Then if possible straighten the legs, while maintaining the length in the spine. Taking the top of the thighs and knees back.
- Press upper arms towards each other, shoulder blades down along the spine, but keeping the space across the tops of the shoulders.
- If you feel unstable or your joints feel stressed, re-check your alignment. Start over in all fours and check that your knees are under your hips and your hands are slightly forward of your shoulders. The creases in your wrists should align with your mat.
- You can work on the shoulder release in the pose by practicing against a wall. Stand facing the wall about a metre / 3 feet away with your legs hip distance apart. Place your hands on the wall (use the same rotation as in the steps above). Walk your hands down the wall until your torso and arms are parallel to the floor.
- Strengthens the upper body, arms, shoulders, chest and legs.
- Stretches chest, shoulders.
- Stretches the whole back of the body, ankles, calves, hamstrings, spine.
- Calms the mind.
- Overall energizes the body.
- Stimulates blood circulation.
- Neutralises the spine between backbends and forward bends.
Watch out for
- Your wrists, if you have issues with your wrists you should perform this pose with caution. Try to create a small angle between lower arms and floor. Push into your hands and spread your fingers. Make sure the knuckle of the first finger is firmly pressing down.
- Shifting too much weight into your arms and hands - shift the weight back into the hips.
- If you feel the pose is being compromised by tight hamstrings, so that you are losing the stretch in your back, bend your knees.
- Hypermobility in the joints for example elbows and shoulders. Create a straight line from your hips to arms and draw your albows in. You can use a strap around your upper arms to avoid hinging in the elbow joint.
- To increase the stretch you can lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your hips higher, drawing your pelvis in. Then let your heels drop back to the floor while maintaining the deeper movement.
- For more of a focus on the arms, loop a belt around your arms, just above the elbows and press against the strap. Same for the legs. Place a belt on your upper legs above the knees and work on active legs drawing thighs outwards.
- Complementary poses
- Try it in class