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Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) | Yoga Fundamentals

Downward Facing Dog (Ardha Mukha Svanasana) is one of the most famous poses, and it's for a good reason. This posture is great for stretching out the hamstrings, calves, and for strengthening arms, legs, and back. This pose is also a mild inversion and helps to relieve tension in the spine by reversing the usual compression of the spine, and it also allows for more blood flow to the brain. Downward Facing Dog is a transitional pose as well as a rest pose. It's another one of the foundational poses in a vinyasa flow sequence and important to get correct to avoid injury.

How to:

  1. From Upward Facing Dog, exhale and tuck your toes under your feet and lift your hips up to the air. If you can't roll over your toes, try flipping your feet one at a time.

  2. Relax your neck and gaze at the back of the mat, your thighs, or your navel.

  3. Rotate your shoulders away from your ears so that the eyes of the elbows face each other.

  4. Engage your quadriceps to relieve your arms and shoulders from some of the body's weight.

  5. Draw belly and low ribs in towards the spine.

  6. Rotate your thighs inwards, keep your tailbone high, and sink your heels closer to the mat.

  7. Spread your fingertips out wide and ground down into the mat.

  8. Breathe here, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth


  • Avoid drawing shoulders up towards ears, instead, actively draw your shoulder blades down and in towards your spine, and pull your shoulders away from your ears.

  • Try not to overbend the spine and let the ribcage sink towards the floor, instead, draw your ribs in towards the spine to maintain a flat back.

  • Avoid placing feet too close or too far apart. The feet should be parallel to the mat and hip-distance apart, about 6 inches apart.

  • Avoid this posture if you have a wrist injury, if you're in the last trimester of pregnancy, or if you have a condition in which your head can't be below your heart such as high blood pressure, or retina issues.


  • If it's too difficult at first to roll over feet, try flipping the feet over one at a time.

  • If hamstrings are tight, try bending the knees or pedaling the feet by bending one knee at a time.

Muscles Worked:

  • Strengthens: Arms, legs, quadriceps, abdominals, and ankles

  • Stretches: Hips, hamstrings, calves, spine, chest, and shoulders

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