Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

How-To, Benefits, Tips + Tricks & Related Poses

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Downward Facing Dog Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana, (AH-doh MOO-kah-shvah-Nahs-anna)

adho (downward) + mukha (face) + śvāna (dog) + āsana (pose)

Also known as: Down Dog Pose, Downward Dog Pose

Pose Type: Back Pain, Inversions, Sciatica, Stretching, Strengthening, Stress Relief

Difficulty: Intermediate

photo of a woman in downward facing dog

The Downward Dog Pose one of yoga’s most recognizable Asanas. This foundational yoga posture is challenging for beginners, but for the intermediate yogi, it offers an amazing full-body stretch.

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Downward Facing Dog Pose Fundamentals

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) is an asana that you will revisit time and time again throughout your yoga journey. It is a foundational pose that is often at the core of many Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga classes.

Flow through Downward Facing Dog in a Sun Salutation Sequence, or hold for a few minutes in a Hatha yoga practice and tune into your alignment.

You’ll often see this asana used as a ‘resting pose’ in more physically invigorating flows.

As it is a pose that is equal parts stretching and strengthening, Adho Mukha Svanasana can help to bring balance into the body and mind.

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downward facing dog pose benefits

  • Downwar dog stretches the lower body, tight hamstrings, calves, and ankles.
  • Strengthens the upper body and builds strength in your shoulders and arms as well as strong abdominal muscles. 
  • Stimulates your blood flow in the whole body, as your heart is above your head, gravity increases blood flow and improves circulation. 
  • Decompresses the spine, particularly the low back.
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How To Do downward facing dog: Step-by-step

How to get there: 

1. Start off on all fours with knees under your hips and shoulders stacked directly over your wrists, index fingers pointing forwards.

2. Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart and fingers spread. 

3. Press your palms into the yoga mat and lift your hips up and back and lengthen your legs as you come into an upside-down V position with the balls of your feet pressing down. You’re now in Downward-Facing Dog.

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Tips and Tricks: 

  • With your arms long and straight, keep your shoulder blades back and away from your ears.
  • Keeping your palms pressed into the mat and legs straight try to bring your heels closer to the mat.
  • Bring your navel in and up, try to bring your chest towards your thighs.
  • Look between your knees or up towards your navel with a relaxed neck. 
  • It’s more important to keep your back straight than your legs. You are welcome to take a generous bend in the knees.
  • To bring your heels towards the floor, picture rooting down into the earth.
  • Imagine your sit bones and tailbone lifting up to the sky.
  • Engage your quadriceps to keep you legs active.
 an annotated image of a woman in black yoga clothes doing downward facing dog
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Downward Facing Dog Variations: Three-Legged Downward Dog

Difficulty: Intermediate

downward facing dog

The Three Legged Downward Dog Pose often holds the space, the inhale, between a Downward-Facing Dog and a standing pose. This pose invites you to flow.

How to get there: 

1. From Downward Facing Dog, step both feet together and on your next inhale, lift your right leg straight up and back, high in the air.

2. Spread your toes, flex your right foot, push back through your heel.

3. Internally rotate your right leg so that your kneecap and toes are squarely facing the mat.

4. Keep your shoulders square and your standing leg strong. Imagine one long straight line from your wrists to your ankles.

5. Align your ears with your upper arms and gaze between your legs or up towards your navel.

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Preparatory Poses:

Cat Pose

Cow Pose

Mountain Pose

Puppy Pose

Plank Pose

Standing Forward Bend

Tabletop Pose

Counter Poses:

Child’s Pose

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For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

Photo of author
Maria Andrews is a 200h Registered Yoga Teacher, long distance runner, and adventure lover.

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