A Step-By-Step Guide To Nailing Your Downward Facing Dog

mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.

Downward facing dog is one of the most common poses you'll find in most yoga classes. It's a part of sun salutation sequences, and also a great pose for transitioning between other moves. On its own, downward dog is a great stretch that activates a lot of muscles in your body.

Here's how to do down dog correctly, plus tips, modifications, and the benefits you can expect when you practice this pose regularly.

How to do Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana:

downward dog plank

Image by mbg creative

  1. Begin in tabletop, with shoulders stacked over your wrists, and hips stacked over your knees.
  2. Firmly press your hands into the mat, tuck your toes under, and send your hips up toward the ceiling. Feet are hips-width distance apart.
  3. Give a generous bend in the knees and tilt your hips upward, lengthening out your spine.
  4. Send your heels down, straightening out your legs, without compromising the position of the hips tilting upward.
  5. Rotate your shoulder blades outward and up, creating space in the upper back. Biceps face forward
  6. Allow the head hang heavy, gazing back toward your feet.
  7. Keep actively pressing into the hands, with middle fingers pointing directly forward, engaging the triceps.
  8. Breathe, continuing to tilt the hips up and straighten out the spine.
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Tips and modifications:

  • If your upper back feels rounded, maintain a bend in the knees so you can focus on tilting the hips up. Don't worry if your heels don't touch the floor.
  • Hug your navel up and in, to help with the upward motion of the hips.
  • Practicing forward folds can help you loosen up your hamstrings if they're tight.
  • Be careful in this pose if you have any wrist or shoulder injuries.

What are the benefits?

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Above all, downward dog is a tremendous stretch for both the hamstrings and the calves. It also tones your arms and legs, and strengthens your wrists, low back, and even the Achilles tendon.

If you have back pain, the spine lengthening effects of down dog can definitely be beneficial. Plus, it may even help with tension headaches, as it allows you to relax the head and neck. You'll also be sure to feel the full-body circulation that comes with this pose.

You're likely to do this pose in the next Vinyasa class you do—and multiple times—as it's used throughout many yoga flows. Because it makes frequent appearances, it's a good idea to get this pose right—and with these tips, you'll be golden.

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