Adhomukhasvan Asana, Downward Facing Dog Pose for Fatigue

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

The English translation of this

Sanskrit title would be,

Downward-facing Dog;

Adho meaning Downward,

Mukha is face and Svan is Dog.

That’s how the name Adhomukhasvan Asana.

Interestingly the majority of the postures in Yoga are derived from the form,

shape of some natural element; an animal, a plant etc.

It further justifies the fact that their names are inclusive of the names of the natural elements they are derived from. 

Downward facing Dog posture resembles a dog occasionally stretching its spine and legs with raised hips imparting a slight concavity to the spine in the process. The motion which is undertaken while getting into Adhomukhasvan asana is similar to the primary motion involved in sitting down and getting up from sitting position by the humans. Do understand  Patanjali’s concept of yoga asana and the precepts to be followed for enhancing the related benefits before attempting Adhomukhasvan asana. 

Preparatory Postures for Adhomukhasvan Asana

  • Plank Pose and its variations
  • Uttanasana​

How to do Adhomukhasvan Asana

  1. Start Adhomukhasvan asana with as if you are preparing to get into the Cat Pose: on your hands and knees, the knees must be directly under the hips and the hands slightly ahead of the shoulders, spread your palms keeping index fingers parallel to each other, turn your toes in
  2. Inhale while pressing downward on your upper back and in the space between the shoulder blades, exhale while lifting the knees and hips from the floor, the chest moving towards the knees,  initially keep the knees bent and heels lifted up from the floor, extend the tailbone away from the hind side of the pelvis and then press it toward the pubis, keeping this alignment intact turn the sitting bones toward the ceiling
  3. Now draw the inner side of  both legs upward into the groin, exhaling further push the tops of the thighs back stretching the heels down on to the mat, Straighten the knees without locking them, consciously turn the upper thighs inwards into the groin
  4. Now firm up the outer arms and press the  length of both the index fingers into the mat, stretch upwards from the index fingers through the inner arms up to the shoulders, create distance  between your shoulders and push them toward the hips, the head remains positioned between the upper arms, not hanging free
Adhomukhasvan asana

Breathing Pattern & duration – Adhomukhasvan Asana 

To begin with Adhomukhasvan asana, inhale while dropping your upper back down while in the starting position of Cat Pose.

Exhale while lifting the knees and the hips above the ground until the final alignment is attained.

Stay in Adhomukhasvan asana breathing normally in a rhythmic manner from a minimum of six breaths to a maximum of 3 minutes.

Exhale while coming out of the posture.

Follow up poses  – Downward-facing Dog Pose

  • Any Standing posture or backward bending posture
  • Headstand

Alignment Essentials and Modifications – Adhomukhasvan Asana 

  • The hands must be shoulder width apart, wrists aligned to the front of the mat, press the entire surface area of the palms into the mat spreading the fingers outward
  • Knees should be hip distance wide in Adhomukhasvan asana, in case you are able to see your heels with your head hanging low, turn them outward, extend the arms upward as the writs are pressed into the mat, stretch the thumbs as if trying to touch their tips together, turn the forearms inwards along their length
  • Rotate the upper arms outward, creating space between the shoulders, the head, neck, and the spine are aligned in a straight line, even if you have to bend your knees a bit in case you have stiff hamstrings or calfs
  • Draw the lower abdomen towards the spine for engaging the core which can help to take the body weight off the shoulders, The inner thighs are kept rolled inwards aiding the lift required in the hips and lower, the feet must be in line with the palms
  • The lower back and the sitting bones in Adhomukhasvan asana need to be kept stretched back and upward simultaneously throughout
  • In case the heels are slipping keep them against the wall, the same goes with the palms, the thumb and the index fingers are kept pressed against the wall
  • Once the chest and the head are positioned in the final  alignment for Adhomukhasvan asana, it should not swing back and forth due to the stiffness in the back of the legs, place a block, standing on the longer side, as a guidepost at a comfortable position between your palms and the feet and make sure the head remains steadily in touch with it throughout the time you remain in the posture
  • First timers can place their palms on the  blocks or the edge of a metal chair for the ease of opening the back and the shoulders

Common Faults – Adhomukhasvan Asana

  • The distance between hands is wider than the shoulder width: this will create tension in the shoulders and neck
  • Hands turned out, toward sides: here the pressure from the body weight will go on the outer wrists destabilizing the arms
  • Knees, not hip distance apart: this will prevent maximum lengthening of the spine in the final position of Adhomukhasvan asana.

Contraindications – When not to do Adhomukhasvan Asana

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 
  • Diarrhea or late pregnancy
  • Persons with Sciatica can bend their knees, if still not comfortable, they can avoid doing this posture
  • Hypertension, Headache: can try by supporting the head on a bolster or a block, arms with the ears

Advantages- benefits of doing Downward-Facing Dog Pose 

  • Calms the mind and improves milder depression
  • Strengthens the upper back and the arms improving the posture at the torso level
  • Adhomukhasvan asana forms a part of yoga techniques which improve digestion as the internal organs are inverted, draining them of any static toxins, in turn reenergizing their functioning
  • Stretches  and strengthens the Hamstrings, Shoulders (deltoids), Arms, Calves and back
  • Alleviates the discomfort associated with the menstrual cycle  and menopause
  • Prevents Osteoporosis, and is always used as a significant asana with yoga processes which benefit Osteoporosis
  • Helps with regulating a healthy sleep cycle, relieves a headache, backache
  • Adhomukhasvan asana fights fatigue by reducing the pressure on the ventricles in the heart,  here heart being below the lungs, also alleviates any breathlessness if present
  • Useful in treating Asthma, Hypertension, Flat Feet, Sinusitis
  • Adhomukhasvan asana tones the nervous system improves blood circulation toward the brain, simultaneously checking the rush of blood toward the brain, generating a cool feeling there in.