Find stability in your hands and feet and a more extended spine as you move step by step into Adho Mukha Svanasana.
Clears stiffness in your shoulders; lengthens and straightens your legs; helps to create arches in your feet and strengthen your ankles.
Come onto your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Press the inner triads of both hands firmly into the mat. Turn the eyes of your elbows toward each other and align your shoulders over your wrists. Your knees should be behind your sitting bones to maximize length in your torso and spine when you move into Down Dog.
See alsoCow Pose
For a few breaths, arch and round your spine, simultaneously moving your head and tail like you did in Cat-Cow Pose.
See alsoCat Pose
From a Cat tilt, curl your toes under. On an exhalation, slowly lift your knees off the floor, bringing them in line with your ankles. Keep your knees bent and stretch your arms intensely to lengthen your torso. Press the mat away from you and open your upper, or armpit, chest. Lift your sitting bones to tilt the top of your pelvis forward and maintain the natural curves of your spine. If your hamstrings are stiff, this is a good place to stay—remaining here opens the shoulders and wakes up the spine without putting pressure on your lower back.
If you are moving deeper into the pose, slowly straighten both legs and walk your feet forward a little. Your sitting bones should be close to centered between your wrists and ankles. Make sure your lower back doesn’t round and that you can still maintain the lift of your sitting bones and the curves of your spine. Extend your arms fully and keep your lower ribs moving toward your spine to avoid low-back overarching and compression. Descend your heels even more as you engage your quadriceps. Maintain Mula Bandha and breathe freely through your nose. Stay for 20–25 breaths before coming down to rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose).
If your hamstrings are stiff and you try to get your heels to reach the floor, your Downward-Facing Dog will be bunched up, with too little distance between your hands and feet. This can round and put pressure on your lower back. Instead, spend extra time warming up in Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose to lengthen your hamstrings safely, then practice Down Dog with bent knees. Also, be vigilant about the distance between your hands: If they are wider than your shoulders, this can cause neck and shoulder tension. Instead, broaden your shoulders to find freedom.
See alsoDig Deeper in Down Dog
Turn out your hands. When you do, pressure goes into the outer wrists and you risk destabilizing your hands.
Let the inner triads of your hands lift. This narrows the carpal tunnel of your wrists and can cause injury over time.
About Our Pros
Teacher Eddie Modestini is co-founder and co-director of Maya Yoga Studio on Maui, Hawaii. Since 1983, he has studied with preeminent teachers including B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He has a degree in exercise physiology and has taught advanced bodywork techniques.