Downward-facing dog…just about everyone has an opinion about how it should be done!
Just to be clear…this is OUR take on this pose coming from an Ashtanga perspective.
If you study yoga within another tradition, such as Iyengar Yoga, then your stance might be longer than what’s shown here. There might also be other little details that are different than what you’ve been taught.
It doesn’t mean they’re wrong! Just different.
After a long yoga life, I’ve grown to understand that the key elements in any pose are really NOT the placement of the body parts.
If this were the case, then there would only be one version of each pose and everyone would be encouraged to look exactly like that, regardless of physical limitations, pain or differences in body proportions.
How to evaluate the ‘success’ of a pose
Here’s my personal criteria for evaluating if I or one of my students is working well in a pose:
- Is energy flowing throughout the pose? (If not, what adjustments could be made to make it more comfortable? Pain and improper alignment will stop energy from flowing.)
- Is the breath flowing smoothly? (If not, see above.)
- Are the actions being attended to? (i.e., Are the arms rotating correctly? Are the joints being supported by their surrounding muscles? Are the lines of energy being extended through?)
- If physical restrictions exist (injuries, imbalances, missing limbs, past surgeries, etc.), how can you adjust to still be productive in the pose (productive = gaining benefit)?
- Is there steadiness and ease? Sthira and sukha?
Beyond these criteria, I feel like we can all get a little obsessive over things that are fun to work on but not super critical for the everyday yogi.
Be sure to download the pdf of this tip sheet at the bottom of this post.
asana name = adho mukha svanasana
- adho = downward
- mukha = face
- svana = dog
- asana = seat
- Opens entire back of the body.
- Strengthens arms, shoulders, wrists and legs.
- Gentle inversion. Good for mood and brain.
- Good pose to practice uddiyana bandha—gravity helps!
- Rejuvenates the whole body.
- Resets the body and realigns chakras in preparation for next pose.
- Brightens your mood, alleviating depression.
- Turns the world around, giving a new perspective.
- carpal tunnel (see our post to help prepare the wrists)
- late-term pregnancy (or at any point during pregnancy that it doesn’t feel good)
- high blood pressure
preparations and modifications
- puppy stretch: drop knees to floor, thighs vertical—great for shoulders, arms and back
- bend knees to relieve pressure on hamstring
- place hands on wall at about shoulder level, then drop chest towards floor
- quiet, alert repose.
What you can do next
- Leave us a comment…Do you agree? If not, let me have a piece of your mind in the comments below.
- Grab your free asana tip sheet by clicking the button below.
This is my favorite pose
Rupali Embry says
Hahaha…that tells me you must be a pretty strong yogini, Marina! Most new practitioners are not so enamored with this pose. It takes a special combination of flexibility and strength to make a favorite pose.
Keep up the good yoga!
Tarah Long says
Thanks Rupali! I’m so happy to have your take on this pose. I’ve been told so many different things, but I really like what you said about the “success” of a pose. “Is energy flowing throughout the pose?”…this really stands out to me and seems like one of the most important aspects of any pose. If all things are in alignment, then the energy will flow! Mahalo:) xo
Rupali Embry says
The different traditions of yoga can be very confusing for practitioners, Tarah. But it really is about the energy, isn’t it? Alignment is about getting the prana to move well, and one person’s version may not be what helps another person’s energy to flow. I like to keep that in mind.