How To Do Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is one of the most recognizable and widely practiced poses in the world. And yet, despite its popularity, many yogis still struggle with achieving proper alignment and breath control in this foundational pose.

But fear not! With a little bit of guidance and practice, anyone can master this pose and reap all of its amazing benefits. From improving flexibility and strength to reducing stress and anxiety, this pose truly has it all.

So let’s dive into the details on how to do the asana like a pro.


Here are step-by-step instructions to perform Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana):

  • Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart.
  • Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms, grounding your hands into the mat.
  • Tuck your toes under and on an exhale, lift your knees off the mat, straightening your legs and sending your hips up towards the ceiling.
  • As you lift your hips, begin to straighten your arms and legs, coming into an inverted “V” shape with your body.
  • Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. Your fingers should be pointing forward.
  • Press firmly through your hands and engage your arms, externally rotating your upper arms to broaden your shoulder blades.
  • Engage your core muscles and draw your belly button towards your spine to support your lower back.
  • Lengthen your spine, sending your sit bones up and back, and allowing your heels to sink down towards the mat. If your heels don’t touch the mat, that’s okay. Keep your legs straight and aim to lengthen the backs of your legs.
  • Keep your neck relaxed and let your head hang between your arms. Avoid letting your head droop down.
  • Take deep breaths in this pose, focusing on the lengthening of your spine and the opening of your shoulders and hamstrings.
  • Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds, or as long as you feel comfortable.
  • To release the pose, gently bend your knees and lower them back down to the mat, returning to a tabletop position.


  • Keep a slight bend in your knees if you feel tightness in your hamstrings. Focus on lengthening your spine and opening your shoulders.
  • If you have wrist discomfort, you can modify the pose by coming down onto your forearms, creating a forearm variation of the pose.
  • Press down through the base of your fingers and knuckles to distribute the weight evenly in your hands.
  • Engage your quadriceps to help straighten your legs and lift your hips higher.
  • If you feel any strain in your lower back, gently engage your abdominal muscles to support your core.
  • Modify the pose as needed to suit your body’s abilities and limitations. Regular practice will help improve flexibility and strength in the pose.

Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Feeling stressed? Down Dog is a great way to stretch and relax!

This asana is one of the most popular yoga poses. It’s an excellent pose for stretching the spine, hamstrings, and wrists while empowering the arms and shoulder blades.

Not only does this pose increase blood flow to the brain. It also offers a mild inversion that can help calm your mind and relieve stress. Modifications and variations of this pose make it accessible to all levels of yogis.

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced practitioner, this pose is an essential yoga pose that will leave you feeling refreshed and energized.

Now let’s dive into preparing for the pose. Proper alignment and breathing techniques.

Preparing for the Pose: Proper Alignment and Breathing Techniques

Proper alignment and controlled breathing techniques are essential to effectively prepare the body. To begin, start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

Spread your fingers wide and press down firmly through all parts of both hands. Take a deep inhale, then exhale as you lift your hips up and back. Straightening your arms and legs into the shape of an inverted V.

As you move into the pose, focus on engaging and make the thighs stronger. While keeping a slight bend in the knees to prevent hyperextension.

Pressing down evenly through both palms will help distribute weight throughout the upper body. Additionally, externally rotating the upper arms can provide more space for movement in the shoulder joint.

Remember to breathe deeply throughout this process. Try taking four slow breaths in each position before moving on. With proper alignment and mindful breathing techniques practiced consistently over time, anyone can find ease in downward pose. Regardless of skill level or experience.

Now that we’ve covered how to properly align yourself pose, let’s explore some modifications and variations for all skill levels!

Downward Facing Dog / Canva
Downward Facing Dog

Modifications and Variations for All Skill Levels

Let’s explore some ways to modify and vary the pose to suit all levels of expertise.

First, if you’re a beginner or have tight hamstrings, you can keep a slight bend in your knees to avoid straining them. As you become more comfortable with the pose, gradually straighten your legs while keeping the balls of your feet grounded on the mat.

Another modification is to use props such as blocks or blankets under your hands for proper alignment. This can be especially helpful if you have wrist pain or are working towards an inversion.

For a restorative version of the pose, place a bolster or rolled-up blanket under your chest and allow yourself to relax into the stretch.

These modifications allow for variations in the traditional downward dog pose that cater to different skill levels and body types.

To avoid common mistakes in the pose, it’s important to be aware of how these modifications affect your alignment and form.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Pose

One of the most common mistakes is failing to maintain the correct alignment. It’s important to keep your hands shoulder-width apart, feet hip-width apart. And distribute your weight evenly between both hands and feet.

Failure to do so can lead to strain on the wrists or shoulders, as well as discomfort in the lower back.

Another mistake is pushing too hard into the pose without proper preparation. This can be particularly dangerous for those with high blood pressure or back pain. As it places unnecessary strain on those areas of the body.

Tight hamstrings may also cause discomfort, so take care not to overstretch them by bending at the knees slightly if necessary. Lastly, avoid collapsing into your wrists. Which could lead towards carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead try engaging upper body strength which creates a sensation of lightness in this posture.

Incorporating the posture into your yoga practice helps stretch and strengthen multiple parts of the body. Including arms, legs, core muscles while calming down an overactive mind. It has numerous benefits that make it a staple in any routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can pregnant women safely practice downward facing dog pose?

Always speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise routine while pregnant to ensure that it’s safe for you and your baby.

For example, if you experience discomfort in your wrists or hips, use blocks or blankets for support. Additionally, avoid sinking into the pose too deeply and focus on maintaining a flat back rather than rounding it.

Remember, practicing yoga during pregnancy can help improve flexibility, strength, and relaxation – all of which can be beneficial during labor and delivery.

How long should I hold the pose for maximum benefits?

I’ve learned that holding the pose for an optimal amount of time is crucial for reaping its full benefits. The longer you hold this pose, the more opportunity your body has to stretch and release tension from your shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and lower back.

Aim to hold the pose for at least five breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose as you lift your hips up towards the ceiling. And exhale slowly through your mouth as you push into your hands and heels. But don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Try increasing the duration of each hold over time.

With consistent practice, you’ll find yourself feeling freer both physically and mentally on and off the mat.

Can downward facing dog help with lower back pain?

Always speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise routine when having back pain, to ensure that it’s safe for you.

This pose can be a game changer. This pose lengthens the spine, stretches the hamstrings and calves, and strengthens the arms and shoulders.

By gently pressing your heels towards the ground and lifting your sitting bones towards the sky, you create space in your lower back and decompress any tension or tightness.

Plus, this pose is often used in yoga sequences as a transition between other poses. So you get to enjoy its benefits multiple times throughout a practice.

So if you’re looking for natural relief from lower back pain, give it a try!

Should I keep my eyes open or closed during the pose?

Keeping your eyes closed during the asana can be a transformative experience. It allows you to turn inward and focus on the sensations in your body. Rather than the distractions of the outside world.

When I close my eyes during this pose, it feels like I’m diving deep into myself, exploring the depths of my being. I become more aware of my breath and can better connect with each inhale and exhale. It’s a powerful way to cultivate mindfulness and presence on the mat.

Of course, if closing your eyes doesn’t feel comfortable or safe for you, there’s no need to force it. Ultimately, whether you keep your eyes open or closed is a personal preference. That should be based on what feels best for your body in that moment.

Is there a recommended time of day to practice downward facing dog?

As someone who’s been practicing yoga for years, I can confidently say there’s no “wrong” time of day to practice. However, if you’re looking for the optimal time to do this pose, I recommend trying it first thing in the morning.

Not only will it help stretch out any stiffness from sleeping. It can also give you an energizing boost to start your day on the right foot. Of course, if mornings aren’t your thing, feel free to try it at any other time of day that works for you.

The beauty of yoga is that it’s adaptable to anyone’s schedule and preferences. Just listen to your body and flow with what feels best.

Downward Facing Dog Yoga / Canva
Downward Facing Dog Yoga


In conclusion, downward facing dog pose is a must-try for anyone who wants to strengthen the entire body and calm their mind. As someone who’s been practicing yoga for years, I can attest to the countless benefits this pose offers. I suggest you join yoga classes with a cool yoga instructor.

From improving posture and flexibility to reducing stress and anxiety, it truly is a full-body experience. But don’t be discouraged if you’re new to yoga or feel intimidated by this challenging pose.

With proper alignment, breathing techniques, and modifications tailored to your skill level, anyone can enjoy the benefits of the pose. So take a deep breath, plant your hands firmly on the mat, and let yourself sink into the pose like a tree root seeking nourishment from the earth.