Poses by Type

Downward-Facing Dog

One of yoga's most widely recognized poses, Downward-Facing Dog Pose, called Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit, works to strengthen the core and improve circulation. This rejuvenating pose works to provide a delicious, full-body stretch.


How to Say Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit

(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)
adho = downward
mukha = face
svana = dog

Downward-Facing Dog: Step-by-Step Instructions

Downward Dog
Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props:  Hugger Mugger
  1. Set up on all fours with your hands about 3 inches ahead of your shoulders and shoulder-width apart.
  2. Align your wrist creases so they are parallel to the front edge of the mat, then root down evenly through the whole of each hand.
  3. Press down firmly with your fingertips to pull your forearms toward the front of the room. Keep your knuckles grounded as you do this.
  4.  Spin your biceps forward while firming your triceps into your midline.
  5. Roll your inner upper arms toward the wall in front of you while engaging your outer upper arms.
  6. Inhale, and tuck your toes under; exhale, and press your hips back and up.
  7. Glance back at your feet to make sure they are hip-width apart and parallel.
  8. Let your head hang freely so there is no tension in the neck; bring your gaze toward your feet.
  9. Allow your shoulder blades to spin out and up, away from your spine and toward your outer armpits (upward rotation) in order to maintain the articulation of the bones of your shoulder and spaciousness at the base of your neck.
  10. Maintain the hand and arm actions from all fours to open your shoulders without overstretching or sinking through the armpits.
  11. If your lower back feels rounded, bend your knees in order to send your sitting bones straight back and up.
  12. With each exhalation, root down firmly through your hands; with each subsequent inhalation, send your hips back and up even more. •Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a few minutes, then release.

Cautions and Contraindications of Downward-Facing Dog

  • Be careful if there is an existing wrist or shoulder injury; high blood pressure or headache should modify with support for the head (bolster or blankets); late-term pregnancy

Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog

  • Tones the arms and legs; opens and strengthens the shoulders in flexion; lengthens the hamstrings and stretches the calves; prepares the body for heating inversion

Preparatory Poses for Downward-Facing Dog

  • Plank Pose
  • Uttanasana

Follow-up Poses After Downward-Facing Dog

  • Standing poses
  • Uttanasana
  • Headstand

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Downward-Facing Dog Video Cues

Ways to Adapt Downward-Facing Dog


1. Bent Knee Downward Dog

Try bending your knees.

This is particularly helpful if the back of your thighs (hamstrings) are tight, your back is rounded in the position, and/or you have low back pain.


2. Downward Dog on the Chair

Try holding onto the seat or back of a chair.

Feel free to bend your knees.

Downward-Facing Dog Anatomy