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How to Do the Downward Dog Pose?

In recent times, yoga has become an increasingly popular phenomenon due to the various physical and mental benefits it provides. Yoga is not only beneficial for providing physical benefits such as relief from back pain, joint pain, and muscular pain, but it allows you to have a calm and peaceful mind as well.

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Yoga has many wonderful and effective stretching poses and postures that one can adopt in order to release pain, cramps, and discomfort from various body parts. One such yoga poses popularly known for its benefits and beneficial impact is the downward dog pose.

Here in this article, we will discuss what is the downward dog pose, the benefits of doing it, a step-by-step guide to performing it, modifications and variations associated with it, and what are common mistakes one should avoid while doing it.

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What is the Downward Dog Pose

The downward dog pose, also called the ‘Adho Mukha Svanasana,’ is a foundational and primary yoga pose that is widely used for its strengthening and stretching benefits. This pose equally focuses on providing strength and stretching to all of your body so your muscles can feel at ease and relaxed as much as possible.

However, this is a pose that you need to perform with utmost care and attention, or if you are a beginner, it is best to perform it in at presence of a yoga instructor. This pose is a bit tricky because of the kind of stretch and strength it requires and, at the same time, provides the performer.

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If you experience tightness or stiffness in the legs or back while doing the downward dog pose, you should stop performing it immediately; otherwise, you might hurt a muscle or a specific vein. If the person performing this pose experiences great strength and stretch, they become more prone to falling or collapsing, hurting any of their integral body parts and muscles.

While you find and feel extreme relaxation in your body after performing the downward dog pose, you should be alert all the time, as performing this pose requires experience and skills.

Benefits of the Downward Dog Pose

Despite the downward dog pose’s biggest benefit, which is to provide strength and stretch to all of your body, here are some of its other amazing benefits:

  • This pose tones your legs and the arms
  • It strengthens and opens your shoulders in flexion
  • It provides length to your hamstrings
  • It effectively stretches your tight claves
  • It prepares your body for heating
  • It provides strength to your abdominal muscles
  • It provides force to your spine
  • It promotes blood flow to your brain
  • It effectively relieves chronic back pain

Step-by-Step Guide to Perform the Downward Dog Pose

Here is the step-by-step that you can use to perform the downward dog pose:

  • The first thing is to be on your knees with your hands also placed on the yoga mat, basically be on your limbs. Align your joints by placing your wrists underneath your shoulders and the knees underneath your hips.
  • Now curl your toes and exert pressure on your backside through your hands in a way that you lift your hips while straightening your legs.
  • Spread your fingers on the mat and while grounding them with your forearms, place all of your pressure on your fingertips.
  • Rotate your upper arms now outwardly in order to broaden your collarbones.
  • Now hang your head downwards, and distance your shoulder blades from your ears towards your hips.
  • When you engage your quadriceps in the posture, transfer your body pressure to them while lifting off the weight from your arms. This specific step will help you transform this strengthening pose into a relaxing and resting pose.
  • Now rotate the thighs inward while keeping your tail high and sink your heels into the floor.
  • Now determine if the distance between your feet and hands is correct and the same by coming into a plank position. The distance between your feet and hands should be the same and correct.
  • Inhale deeply and stay in the downward dog pose for thirty to sixty seconds.
  • Now Exhale and release by bending your knees and returning to your knees and hands.
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Key Points to Consider While Performing the Downward Dog Pose

Here are some of the key points to consider while performing the downward dog pose n order to get the correct posture. Working on these key points, you can effectively ignore the common mistakes and ace in performing this basic yoga pose:

Release Your Heels

The most common mistake that yoga beginners make while performing the downward dog pose is not releasing their heels during the posture. If your remain on your heels, that is, on the balls of your feet, you will never feel like shifting your body pressure forward. Rather your weight will feel like pushing back.

In order to transform this posture into arresting pose, you need to release your heels and keep them moving towards the floor but not placed fully on the floor.

Position your Butt

To position your butt in the right direction, bend your knees and sit up on your heels. Rest your belly on the thighs and position your sit bones high. Now sink your heels and straighten your legs while focusing your butt in the high upward position of your sit bones.

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Avoid a Banana Back

Try not to let your ribcage sink into the floor. That leads to a banana back, making your spine sink. Draw in your ribs to create a flat back; this will be easier, especially if you are a flexible person.

Focus on Your Foot Position

Many people tend to turn their feet in opposite directions on the floor rather than pointing their toes towards the front of the mat. This distance between your feet is crucial as keeping them far apart will make the distance too wide, and keeping them too close will make the feet touch each other.

Your feet should always be separated according to your hip width, approximately six inches of space between your feet. While preparing yourself for the posture, place your feet accurately, release your heels, position your butt high, and you will face the downward dog pose.

Modifications of the Downward Dog Pose

Many people experience extreme strength exertion or stretching of their muscles, leading to muscle strains while performing the downward dog pose. If you also experience such things, it is better to immediately stop performing the pose and ignore any serious muscle strain or vein entanglement.

Here are some of the useful modifications including yoga props and accessories plus some pose modifications that you can use while performing the downward dog pose:

Blankets: Use two folded blankets beneath your heels while positioning yourself downwards, so you don’t feel extra pressure on your feet or spine.

Blocks: You can even use yoga blocks beneath your heels or even beneath your hands to help ease pain and discomfort from tight fingers and wrists.

Strap:  Use a strap for your elbows and knees to help yourself with hip lock and shoulder engagement. The strap is a useful prop in managing pressure effectively on your hips and shoulders.

Wall Plank and wall-facing Downward Dog Pose: This modification is essential for beginners, especially people who feel tightness in their calves and backbone from performing the downward dog pose on the floor.

You can start by placing your hands on the wall for starters and exert full pressure on your hands while keeping your knees as straight as possible for maximum flexibility and strength.

Chair Modification: This modification is extremely helpful for people who feel tightness in their arms, wrists, and shoulders. You can directly place your hands on the chair while performing the downward dog pose to strengthen your calf muscles and tendons.

Downward Facing Dog Pose on Toes: If you feel tightness in your legs and calves, then you can effectively stay active on your toes which will lift off the burden and pressure from your legs. It would help if you kept your spine straight, your tailbone high, and your knees bent.

Downward Facing Dog Pose with Heel Support:  Adding wedges, blankets, or blocks underneath your feet for the pose will help you shift pressure from your shoulders to your hands and, in the same way, from your hips to your heels. Keep your tailbone high and your breath relaxed throughout the posture.

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Variations of Downward Dog Pose

For people who experience muscle strains, pain, and discomfort in the legs, calves, spine, and arms. Here are the five easiest and most effective variations that you can work on to have a relaxing resting downward dog pose:

1.      Downward Facing Dog Walk-Out

For this variation, you need to be on your limbs and walk in front with your hands in a forward fold position to open your shoulders and deepen the stretch in the inner arms. Go easy on yourself when you bring your hands in the walking position back to your toes to feel a maximum and amazing stretch in the back of your legs.

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2.      Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog to Plank

Start with being in the downward dog facing pose and then lift one leg up in the air while coming forward with your torso just like you would do a plank. This amazing variation will activate each core of your body while also strengthening your hamstrings and glutes.

3.      Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog Knee to Nose

This variation will challenge your strength and stamina while also improving your stability. When being in the downward dog pose, bring your knee to your nose as you would do for a crunch. Your lower abs will feel a good kick and stretching, while your legs will feel relaxed to the core.

4.      Downward Facing Dog Scorpion Kick

This is a challenging variation as it will require great control as you will pull your leg out in the downward dog pose while moving your leg slightly and twisting your hips. This variation will not only lengthen your spine but will also open up your hip flexors, quads, and your abdominal muscles.

5.      Downward Dog with Transverse Twist

This variation is there to focus on your torso and arms. As you go into the natural downward dog pose, lean your weight on your right side and move your left hand reaching out to hold your right heel, calf, or leg, depending on your flexibility level. Once able to hold, it twists your hips and torso in the direction of your hands to provide flexibility and stretch your abdominal and shoulder muscles. 

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Who Should Avoid the Downward Dog Pose?

Although the downward dog pose is completely beneficial for most people, it can still have some harmful effects due to the strength, stamina, and stretching required. Following are the conditions in which one should avoid performing the downward dog pose:

  • If you are pregnant and in the last trimester of your pregnancy.
  • If you had a wrist injury in the past.
  • If you have carpel tunnel syndrome.
  • If you have ongoing heart diseases.
  • If you experience high blood pressure.
  • If you have vertigo.
  • If you have a slipped disc issue in your spine.
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Related Questions

Here are all the commonly related questions regarding the downward facing dog pose and how to perform it:

What is a downward-facing dog pose?

A downward-facing dog pose is a basic yoga posture that requires you to be on your limbs initially and then position your tailbone high in the air, exerting pressure on your hands and feet on the ground. This famous yoga posture is widely known for its strengthening and stretching benefits.

How is the downward-facing dog pose helpful for muscles?

The downward-facing dog pose offers great strength, stability, stamina, and stretch to your overall body. Focusing on your spine’s alignment, this pose offers strength to your arms and shoulders and relaxes your hips, knees, and calves. It is a helpful yoga posture to relieve chronic spinal pain.

What are the benefits of the downward-facing dog pose?

The downward-facing dog poses effectively elongates your spine while relaxing your shoulder, knee, and calves muscles. This pose also promotes blood flow to your brain while shaping your abdominal muscles as well.

Are there modifications and variations to the downward-facing dog pose?

Yes, you can add any modification to the downward-facing dog pose according to your comfort and need, such as blankets, yoga blocks, straps, or a chair. You can even try variations of this pose we mentioned above to experience more challenging yoga and enjoy its benefits.

Who should avoid performing the downward-facing dog pose?

Pregnant women, especially in their last trimester, should avoid performing the downward dog pose due to the increased weight. People with wrist injuries, chronic pains, and disc displacements in the spine should avoid performing this pose or prefer to perform it in the presence of a yoga instructor.

Conclusion

The downward dog pose is a very effective yoga pose that greatly stimulates your muscles and increases your stamina and strength. In this post, we have discussed what the downward dog pose is, the benefits associated with this pose, how to perform this pose, and the possible modifications and variations of this pose.

Sources:

 

https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/downward-dog-poses-variations/

https://www.verywellfit.com/downward-facing-dog-adho-mukha-svanasana-3567072

https://destinationyoga.co.uk/latest-news/poses/downward-dog/

https://www.artofliving.org/yoga/yoga-poses/downward-facing-dog-pose

https://www.orcanation.org/2018/03/22/downward-dog/