Downward Facing Dog Pose - Adho Mukha Svanasana

Downward Facing Dog Pose (front) - Iana Varshavska


Downward Facing Dog Pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit (Adho means ‘downwards’, Mukha ‘face’, and Svana means ‘dog’) is a foundational yoga pose that is often used as a transitional pose between other yoga asanas.

Downward Facing Dog position provides a great stretch and strengthens the entire body, especially the arms, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and spine. It can also help to calm the mind and relieve stress.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is considered a base pose as Downward Facing Dog Pose Variations can be derived from this pose. This is a great pose to boost energy in the body and hence can be included in flow yoga sequences.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1
Start by assuming a tabletop position on all fours, aligning your elbows and wrists directly below your shoulders, and your knees directly below your hips.
Step 2
Shift your hands about 2 inches forward from your shoulders, spreading your fingers wide. Firmly press your palms into the floor, distributing your weight evenly.
Step 3
While exhaling, tuck your toes, lift your knees off the ground, and push your hips upward and backward. Create an inverted V shape with your body. Gently straighten your legs and aim to point your heels towards the ground, although they don't need to touch. Push the ground away from you with your hands. Maintain a comfortable bend in your knees, if necessary, while elongating your spine.
Step 4
Rotate your triceps backward, allowing your elbows to face forward. Draw your shoulders away from your ears, slightly relax your hands, and direct your gaze towards your thighs or navel.
Step 5
Activate your quadriceps and rotate your inner thighs backward. Keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows to prevent them from locking.
Step 6
To come out of the Downward Facing Dog pose, exhale, bend your knees, and gently lower them back down to the ground.

Benefits and Contraindications


Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression

Energizes the body

Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands

Strengthens the arms and legs

Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause

Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported

Helps prevent osteoporosis

Improves digestion

Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue

Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis


Carpal tunnel syndrome


Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term.

High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.

Photo poses in different angles

Modifications and Props for Beginners

Some people may find the traditional version of the pose challenging due to tightness or discomfort in certain areas of the body. Here are some modifications and props that can be used to make the pose more accessible:

  • Use blocks: Place a block under each hand to bring the ground closer to you, which can help alleviate wrist pain or discomfort. You can also place a block under your head to relieve neck tension.
  • Bend the knees: If you have tight hamstrings, bending your knees can help you find a more comfortable position in Downward Facing Dog. This modification can also help you engage your quadriceps more effectively.
  • Use a strap: If you have tight shoulders or upper back, you can use a strap to help extend your arms and create more space between your shoulders and ears.
  • Walk your hands forward: If you have tight hamstrings or lower back, walking your hands forward can help you find a more comfortable position. This modification also allows you to focus on lengthening your spine.
  • Use a wall: If you have trouble balancing in the pose or need extra support, you can practice Downward Facing Dog with your hands on a wall. This modification can help you feel more stable and confident in the pose.

Useful Tips

Focus more on your spine and shoulders rather than straightening your legs.

Lengthen through your spine by drawing your shoulders away from your ears and reaching your hips up and back. Imagine lengthening your spine as if you were creating space between each vertebra.

Relax your neck: Let your head hang freely and allow your neck to relax. If you experience any discomfort in your neck, you can look between your legs or tuck your chin toward your chest.

Breathe deeply: Take slow, deep breaths as you hold the pose. Focus on expanding your ribcage and filling your lungs with air. Use each exhale to release tension and sink deeper into the pose.

Remember that every body is different, and it’s important to honor your own limitations and work at your own pace. If you experience any pain or discomfort in the pose, back off or modify as needed. With consistent practice, you can build strength and flexibility in your body and enjoy the many benefits of Downward Facing Dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I feel discomfort or pain while practicing Downward Facing Dog Pose?

If you feel discomfort or pain while practicing Downward Facing Dog Pose, modify the pose by bending your knees, placing your hands on blocks, or lowering yourself to the ground. If the discomfort or pain persists, stop practicing the pose and consult with a healthcare professional.

Can beginners practice Downward Facing Dog Pose?

Yes, beginners can practice Downward Facing Dog Pose, but modifications may be necessary to make the pose more accessible. Start with shorter holds and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the pose.

How long should I hold Downward Facing Dog Pose?

Hold Downward Facing Dog Pose for 5 to 10 breaths, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the pose. Repeat the pose several times throughout your yoga practice.

Can I practice downward facing dog pose during periods?

Yes, you can practice Downward Facing Dog Pose during your menstrual cycle, but it may be uncomfortable or difficult for some individuals. It is important to listen to your body and adjust your practice as needed.

Some women may experience discomfort or pain during the pose due to cramping or bloating. In this case, you can modify the pose.

It is also important to stay hydrated during your menstrual cycle and avoid overexerting yourself in your yoga practice. If you experience severe pain or discomfort, it is best to rest and avoid yoga poses that exacerbate your symptoms.

As always, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting or modifying any yoga practice, particularly if you have any medical conditions or concerns.

Modifications & Variations

  • Downward Facing Dog Pose With Bent Knees
  • Downward Facing Dog Against a Wall
  • Downward Facing Dog Pose With Chair
  • One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose
  • Two-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose
  • Three Legged Downward Facing Dog Pose Aerial
  • Revolved Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Iana Varshavska
Iana Varshavska
Website administrator

A digital marketer in love with yoga and everything that goes along with it. In 2021, her huge passion for yoga led her to yoga teacher trainings. After successfully completing her studies, Iana received her Yoga Alliance U.S. certification, left the corporate IT world and devoted herself to the development of Yanva. To be able to create the best online yoga space for yoga enthusiasts like her, Iana is constantly learning and improving her skills in various aspects of yoga philosophy, anatomy and biomechanics. Since 2021, she has continued to attend various types of teacher training, including yoga therapy, gives online and offline classes, and conducts local workshops for people who want to learn more about yoga. At the moment, Iana continues to work on her personal practice, improving her hand balancing skills, as well as developing her own training programs.