Downward Facing Dog Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana


  • Elongates and releases tension from your spine
  • Stretches your hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens your arms, shoulders, and back
  • Improves mobility of your digestive system
  • Relieves back pain, headaches, insomnia and fatique
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Downward-Facing Dog is a mild inversion that calms the nervous system and helps relieve stress
  • Pose

  • Cautions

  • Modifications

  • Wrist problems like carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye or inner ear infection
  • Avoid this pose in late-term pregnancy
  • Ease pressure on your wrists by placing a wedge under your palms or performing the pose on your elbows.
  • Elevate hands on blocks or on the seat of a chair to release and open your shoulders.
  • Images
  • Step-by-step

Adho Mukha Svanasana (AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)
adho = downward mukha = face svana = dog

  1. Come onto your hands and knees with your plams just forward of the shoulders.
  2. Spread your fingers with your index finger forward, knees unders your hips and toes tucked.
  3. Inhale and lift your knees away from the floor as sit-bones reach towards the ceailing.
  4. At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor.
  5. Exhale and elongate up through your tailbone moving the abdomen towards the heels.
  6. Your heels lower and your legs lengthen without strain to the hamstrings or a pull on the pelvis. 
  7. Roll your upper thighs inward slightly and roll the heels outward slightly.
  8. Maintain light pressure on the bases of your index fingers.
  9. Widen the shoulder blades and feel them move towards your tailbone.
  10. Keep a long neck with your head comfortable in line with the arms.
  11. Your elbow and knee joints should not be locked.
  12. Emphasize length in the spine as you keep even weight on the hands and feet.  For beginners, a slight softness can be kept in the knees, and the heels do not have to touch the floor.
  13. Hold for several breaths, then exit to a new pose or come down to rest in child's pose or thunderbolt pose.
Login or sign upsign up to add a comment

suzicat, posted on June 27, 2013

Wow. A year later and I get a response! Thank you to darci611 and mgeisthardt for the suggestions that are both very helpful. Within the past year I've sort of found out about the a) yoga towel and b) better mats. I've tried the towel method and it works perfectly. I've not yet tried a better mat but I do have my eye on one ($100) that's supposedly the "mack-daddy" of all mats. Thanks alot for your answers. Peace!

mgeisthardt, posted on June 25, 2013

@suzicat get a jade yoga mat, you won't slip again.

Hippiechickbarbie70, posted on March 19, 2013

Any suggestions on how to keep my shoulders from getting so fatigued and achy in this pose? I know it's supposed to be a resting pose during vinyasa but I find it to be tiring and I have periodic pain in my shoulders when I hold for more than a couple breaths. Any ideas as to what I may be doing wrong?

darci611, posted on November 1, 2012

Slipping on mat- I had that same problem with slipping down my mat. The thing that helped stop this for me was to place a towel at the top of my mat and then I place my hands half on the towel and half on the mat. It was great to not slip and feel the full strech after that!

Sharee37, posted on October 23, 2012

And I thought I was doing Downward dog correctly! Thank you!

LaniLeeP, posted on August 21, 2012

@Autum81. Tennis elbow.

autumn81, posted on August 21, 2012

@lanileep- what is your elbow condition??

LaniLeeP, posted on August 20, 2012

Any alternatives or modifications for this pose during sun salutations, for students who can not put an arm overhead or with elbow issues? So that the sun salutations can continue to be practiced.

Thank you!

suzicat, posted on April 13, 2012

I've tried everything I can think of to NOT slide out of this pose. I have cleaned my yoga mat with a)alcohol, b)vinegar, c)Meyers general cleaning product. I even bought the yoga gloves to stop slippage but I still slide inside them and the gaps between my fingers get strangled by the gloves - ouch!
I can tell that if I could stay in place, this would feel great. As it is now, I cant really get a full stretch and let go into it because I'm struggling with staying put (and focused instead on that).
Please help! Any advice?

lenejijung, posted on February 27, 2012

Thank you :D i will try my best.

kregweiss, posted on February 26, 2012

hi lenejijung,

I recommend that you first work Downward Facing Dog with slightly soft knees - this will relax the hamstrings (back of the legs) and increase your ability to fold from the hips (which will create a longer, 'flatter' back). Once you have fully established the sensation of the proper hip fold, you can gradually work open the hamstrings and calf muscles. I like to 'walk' the heels one at a time to slowly ease the calf muscles open. Other preparation poses are ideal to warm up the legs and spine as well as bring mobility to the hamstrings and calf muscles. Some yoga practices go straight into sun salutations (containing downward dog). You may find doing some preparation poses that warm the body and lightly stretch the back of the legs can make vinyasa and flowing hatha practices more accessible when coming into the first downward facing dog poses.

Kreg Weiss

lenejijung, posted on February 26, 2012

At first i had to bend my legs, now i can have my legs straight with feet on the mat. However, the connection between my bum and my back isnt straight, its slightly bent like an arch, How do i practice to get it to become straight, and is it suppose to be straight or is it supposed to be curved? Thank you

More From Gaia

Password is case sensitive.