Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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 recognisable 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 practices.

As it is a pose that is equal parts stretching and strengthening, downward facing dog can help to bring balance into the body.

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downward facing dog pose benefits

  • Stretches the lower body, 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, as your heart is above your head, gravity increases blood flow and improves the circulation. 
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How To Do downward facing dog: Step-by-step

gif of a woman doing downward facing dog pose

How to get there: 

1. Start off on all fours with knees under your hips and shoulders stacked directly over your wrists. 

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

3. Press your palms into the mat and lift your hips up and back as you come into an upside-down V position. You’re now in Downward-Facing Dog.

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Tips and Tricks: 

  • With your arms long and straight, keep your shoulders 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. 

Note: It’s tempting to bend your knees but try to keep your legs as straight as possible – remember, it’s more important to have straight legs than to have heels on the floor. 

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's 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.

three legged downward dog

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 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.

Maria Andrews

Maria Andrews

Maria Andrews is a 200h Registered Yoga Teacher, long distance runner, and adventure lover. She finds joy in learning, experiencing, and connecting.

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