Learn Yoga with the Downward Dog

Edited by HealthNut, Eng, VisiHow

The Downward-Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svana, is a well-known resting yoga pose used to strengthen and realign the body during practice. It is a standing pose where you engage all of the parts of your body in an inverted 'V' shape. As well as strengthening the body, it stretches the muscles and improves posture. Downward Dog is a key part of the Sun Salutation sequence and can easily be added into your yoga practice. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions of how to do the pose.

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What You Will Need

  • A yoga mat
  • Some stretchy yoga trousers

The Downward-Facing Dog -- Step-by-Step

  1. 1
    Warm up with the help of our how to on warming up before practicing Yoga poses.
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  2. 2
    Begin on all fours with your hands and knees touching the mat.
    Make sure that your hands are directly below your shoulders and that your knees are directly below your hips. Keep your hands and knees parallel to each other (this makes it easier to stabilize your body when you are in the pose), spread your fingers wide, and tuck your toes under.
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  3. 3
    As you exhale, slowly lift your knees from the floor.
    If you're new to the pose, start with slightly bent knees and heels lifted. As you practice the pose more, your hamstrings will stretch and your heels may be able to reach the floor with straight legs.
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  4. 4
    Lengthen your spine as you lift your tailbone towards the sky.
    Use your ankles to push energy up through your legs and towards the groin.
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  5. 5
    At the same time, still with palms spread wide, push energy from your hands up through your arms.
    Inhale.
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  6. 6
    By now, you should be in an inverted 'V' shape, with your hips and pelvis at the highest point.
    Exhale as you stretch your heels towards the mat. You can begin pedaling your legs between straight and bent as you loosen the muscles.
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  7. 7
    Straighten your knees, being careful not to lock the joints, as you shift your weight more on to your hands, then your feet several times.
    This further helps to loosen the muscles and get blood flowing.
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  8. 8
    Do not worry if your heels don't reach the mat when you have straight legs, this is normal.
    At the beginning it is almost impossible to touch your heels to the mat, and some people can never do despite their yoga abilities, purely because of their body structure. With all yoga poses, do not force yourself or make yourself uncomfortable. Breathing throughout helps to get through the resistance felt which can be uncomfortable, but do not over-exert your body.
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  9. 9
    Firm your arms and press the base of your index fingers and thumbs towards the mat.
    Keep this energy active up your wrists to your shoulders, making sure not to collapse into the pose.
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  10. 10
    Keep your head held between your elbows, with your spine in a strong, straight line down from your hips.
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  11. 11
    You can stay in the pose for around 1-3 minutes, focusing on your breath and staying active through your hands and feet.
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  12. 12
    To release the pose, exhale and slowly bend your knees back down to the mat to enter Child's pose.
    Or, if you prefer to stand, this is a good opportunity to step or jump up to the front of your mat to a Forward Fold or Mountain Pose.
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  13. 13
    Don't forget to cool down with our tips on how to cool down after practicing Yoga.
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For an Advanced Practice

  1. 1
    To deepen your Downward Dog, lift one leg straight up towards the sky, and either bend or straighten your leg.
    At this point you can experiment with shifting weight and balance, whilst actively engaging your arms, core and legs.
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  2. 2
    Another way to deepen the pose is to engage further with your hands and arms as you press your heart towards your thighs.
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  3. 3
    Take note not to put too much of your weight on one side and not to lock your knees.
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  4. 4
    You can also easily transition to the Heart-to-Earth pose from here.
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Tips and Suggestions

  • The Downward Dog is a useful pose for beginning your day and warming your body up.
  • Do not practice this pose if you are heavily pregnant or have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Take caution when practicing the pose if you have diarrhea or are prone to headaches and high blood pressure. In this case, support the head with a yoga block or bolster and keep your ears in line with your elbows.

See our other tutorials on exercises: Learn Yoga with the Tree Pose, Learn Yoga with the Childs Pose, Learn Yoga with the Mountain Pose, Build Better Glutes Using an Exercise Ball, Build Better Glutes at Home with 4 Simple Exercises, Activate Glutes with Simple Exercises, and Properly Stretch Your Lower Body.

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Categories : Sports | Health & Wellness

Recent edits by: Eng, HealthNut

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