Adho Mukha Svanasana: The Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Adho Mukha Svanasana (AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna), also known as Downward-Facing Dog Pose, is a mild inversion that calms the nervous system and helps relieve stress. During each exercise, make sure to maintain a focus on your breathing as it hones your attention, focusing your mind on the constant change as you breathe in and out. You should sense how the pose affects your breath.

Sanskrit:

  • Adho: downward
  • Mukha: face
  • Svana: dog
  • Asana: pose

Philosophy & Origin:

Adho Mukha Svanasana is practiced as a free-standing posture or as part of a Vinyasa sequence and is used as a resting point for stretching the back of the legs and the shoulders. (Source)

Tips:

This pose stretches the hamstrings, calves, spine and back. While this can help with relief from discomfort and prevent strain, exercise caution. Go slowly and don’t push your body beyond its limits.

Level:

Beginner (1)

Physical Benefits:

  • 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 fatigue

Energetic Benefits:

  • Elongates and releases tension from your spine
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause

Mudra: Apana Mudra

This mudra is also known as the “Prayer Mudra”.

How to: The tips of the middle and ring finger (Aakash or Ether and Earth) touches the tip of the thumb. The forefinger and little finger are stretched out and straight.

Benefits:

  • Helps move prana energy to the periphery of the body
  • Regulates the excretory system and helps maintain internal chemical homeostasis
  • Aids in waste elimination from the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, throat, etc.
  • Regulates diabetes
  • Helps with constipation and urine obstruction (Source)

Mantra:

Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra

As translated by the Dalai Lama, this mantra literally means “The jewel is in the lotus, or praise to the jewel in the lotus.” Many contend that the true meaning of this mantra cannot be translated into a simple phrase or sentence, but all of the teachings reiterate that suffering in life is unnecessary, and through peaceful reflection and calculated action, we can avoid the aspects of our lives that cause suffering and embrace those that bring joy and enhance our daily lives. The lotus is often believed to be symbolic of our ability to rise out of darkness and blossom with beauty, and this recognition of how we rise out of dark conditions is invoked through the power of this mantra.

Preparatory Poses:

  • Plank Pose
  • Uttanasana

Follow-Up Poses:

  • Uttanasana
  • Standing Poses
  • Headstand

Contraindications and Cautions:

Although this is a mild, stimulating inversion, you should check with a doctor before performing the pose if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Wrist problems like carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye or inner ear infection
  • Avoid this pose in late-term pregnancy

Adjustments/Modifications:

  • 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

Step-By-Step:

  1. Start in Mountain Pose with your hands on your hips. Draw your left knee in towards your belly and interlace your fingertips in front of your shin. Engage the bandhas and square the pelvis. Pause here for a breath, enjoying the stretch.
  2. Reach your left hand on the inside of your left knee and take hold of your big toe with your first and second fingers. Pause here finding balance, then extend your foot forward. Straighten your knee fully if you can.
  3. Keeping your leg straight, extend your foot towards the left. Keep your right hand on your right hip, or extend your hand out towards the right. Keep the shoulders level and relaxed away from the ears.
  4. For the full expression of the pose, send your gaze over your right shoulder, keeping your chin parallel to the ground.

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