advertisement



Balanced Living


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Downward-Facing Dog

down dog

"Practicing the Downward-Facing Dog really helps me stretch out the muscles of my legs. It's a wonderful way to enter a deeply relaxed state after a long day." - Andrew Weil, M.D.

Description & History
Downward-Facing Dog is a popular yoga pose for stretching the muscles of the legs and shoulders. The Sanskrit name, Adho Mukha Svanasana, comes from the words adho meaning downward, mukha meaning face and asana meaning posture.

Downward-Facing Dog is commonly used as a rest pose between difficult poses. It is important to maintain focus while performing this pose to experience the maximum benefit.

How to Perform Downward-Facing Dog

  • Begin by resting your hands and knees on the floor with your toes curled. Set your knees directly below your hips and place your hands slightly forward of your shoulders.
  • Exhale and push your knees away from the floor, raising your hips and straightening your legs. Keep your arms straight and hands firmly on the floor. Rotate the shoulder blades out away from your head. Let the head hang in line with the arms with eyes looking up at the navel keeping the neck free from extension.
  • Keep the tailbone pointed to the sky. The body should look like an inverted "V" from the side.
  • Hold the Downward-Facing Dog pose for 30 seconds to two minutes. Pay careful attention to your shoulders and wrists and stop if you feel any pain.
  • To release from Downward-Facing Dog, exhale and slowly drop your knees to the floor and come to a rest with your arms under your shoulders as in Child's Pose.

Watch a video demonstration of Downward-Facing Dog.


Potential Health Benefits

  • Improves the immune system, digestion and blood flow
  • Calms the mind and relieves stress
  • Helps relieve mild depression
  • Stretches and strengthens the shoulders, arms, legs and back
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort

A study review published in a 2012 edition of Frontiers in Psychiatry looked at effective treatments for mental illness. The study stated there is support for yoga in treating depression and sleep disorders. While no study has proved the effectiveness of Downward-Facing Dog for any particular condition, practitioners have reported increased mental acuity from the pose.

Modifications & Variations
Many first-time practitioners of the Downward Facing Dog are unable to straighten the legs and make the body into an inverted "V" from the side. For beginners, dropping the knees slightly while keeping the arms straight is a common adjustment until the legs become more flexible.

Beginners can also modify the pose: starting from a standing position, bend at the waist and rest the arms on a chair against a wall or some other secure structure to achieve the same results. This modified pose is also beneficial as it can greatly reduce stress on the shoulders, elbows and hands if the practitioner experiences pain.

There are a few advanced modifications of the Downward-Facing Dog that can deepen the pose and provide additional stretching. One modification is to enter into the pose and use the calf muscles to lift up onto the balls of the feet and drop your forearms to the floor and rest on them. This movement should increase the stretch of the leg muscles. Another modification is to widen the starting position of the feet and following the same movement as the original pose. A third modification is to lift one leg so it is in line with the arms and torso while in the Downward-Facing Dog and then switch legs after 30 seconds. These advanced modifications can increase the chance of pain and injury, so pay careful attention to any discomfort you may feel.

Precautions
Downward-Facing Dog places great stress on the shoulders and wrists. Use caution if you currently have or have experienced the following:

The Downward-Facing Dog can cause you to feel lightheaded and dizzy. It is important that you do not stay in this pose for an extended period of time, especially if you have hypertension or are sensitive to headaches. You can use a bolster or block to support your head at ear level between the arms.

Related Poses


Reviewed by: James Nicolai, M.D., on May 20, 2013

Sources
Balasubramaniam, Meera, Shirley Telles, and P. Murali Doraiswamy. "Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders." Frontiers in Psychiatry 3 (2012).

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here