How to do Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose

Do you want to learn how to do Downward-Facing Dog correctly? Let’s get started as we learn proper form, modifications, and common mistakes.

Also Known As: Downward Dog, Downdog
Targets: Hamstrings, calves, mild inversion
Level: Beginner

Description & History
One of the most recognized yoga poses, Downward-Facing Dog. The Sanskrit name, Adho Mukha Svanasana, comes from the words ado meaning downward, mukha meaning face and asana meaning posture. It’s named after the way dogs naturally stretch their entire bodies! Who’s Down Dog?!!!

Downward-Facing Dog energizes and rejuvenates the entire body. It deeply stretches the hamstrings, calves, shoulders, hands, and spine while building strength in your arms, shoulders, and legs. Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion.

Step-by-Step Instructions
Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.

Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands and point your middle fingers directly forward.

Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor and push your hands to lift your hips and straighten your legs. It is okay if your legs are not all the way straight.

Keep pressing the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. Make sure your feet are hip width apart and parallel to the outside edges of your mat. Spread out through your toes and press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands. It is okay if your heels do not touch the floor.

Keep your arms straight and hands firmly on the floor. Rotate the shoulder blades away from your head. Let the head hang in line with the arms with eyes looking between your knees or up a the navel.

Keep the tailbone pointed to the sky. The body should look like an inverted “V” from the side.
Engage your quadriceps while rotating your things inward. Activate your core while continuing to inhale and exhale.

Remember these Tips & Modifications
If you are tight in your hamstrings and low back, welcome movement in this pose! Don’t feel like you have to hold it when you first begin.
Movement in this pose will help you to feel more at ease and before you know it you will love being in this pose!
Your heels do not need to touch the ground. Do not worry about it—avoid walking your feet closer to your hands for this purpose. Maintain the length of your spine and the lift of your pelvis.
If you are very flexible, do not let your rib cage sink toward the floor. Draw your lower ribs in and maintain a flat back.

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

  • Diarrhea
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Pregnancy

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