Adho Mukha Shvanasana aka the Downward Dog

2 years ago / by KT Hall
downward dog pose
Image credits: Logan Weaver via Unsplash

Have you ever done an early morning stretch? You may have been doing downward-facing dog and didn’t know. This simple yoga pose can loosen tight muscles, help you focus on your mind and body, and it offers several healing benefits.

Explore Downward Dog Yoga

Adho Mukha Svanasana or downward dog is based on the root words Adho (downwards to the shoulders), Mukha (burrowing), Svana (dog) and Asana (pose). Downwards dog yoga is given this name because it resembles a dog stretching with its face borrowed in the ground.

Downward dog is recommended for those who may be dealing with stress or depression.

This pose is beneficial for women to help them maintain their uterus and it can help with menstruation. Downward dog pose is beneficial for those who want to alleviate digestive disorders or anyone who may have issues with their intestines or stomach.


Downward dog pose can stretch the upper, middle, and lower back muscles. It’s a good standing pose for beginners and helps with stretching the arms and shoulders.

This asana can alleviate tightness in the shoulders, neck, calves and hamstrings, making it beneficial for those who run and also those who sit all day. Downward dog pose provides a deep stretch to the biceps, triceps and abdominal muscles. Because this pose increases circulation throughout the body, it can remove toxins and increase your energy level.

Downwards dog yoga is used in different types of yoga sequences. When you stand in downward-facing dog, as you bend over, your muscles in the hamstrings and calves are stretched and strengthened.

Your abdominal muscles and core are also benefiting from this asana. Additionally, this pose can alleviate stiffness in the wrists, ankles and heels. It’s good for increasing flexibility and strengthening the tendons, ligaments and joints.

Tips for Getting Into Downward Dog

With Adho Mukha Svanasana, hold this pose for about 4-6 breaths. Make sure that you rotate your thighs and hips inward. Let your head drop to the floor while pushing your heels into the floor. As you go deeper into the pose, exhale. Contract your stomach muscles and remain in that forward bend for the full 4-6 breaths or for as long as you can hold it.

When you’re ready to come out of Adho Mukha Svanasana, start looking up and then lift your right foot into your hands. Let out your breath and bring your left foot closer to the right. Then exhale completely as you come into Uttanasana (Standing forward fold pose). Once you are completely out of a downward pose, try it again with a deeper stretch or continue with the rest of your routine.

Taking Precautions with Downward Dog

Have you searched online for “How to do downward dog?” or for “How to fix wrist pain?” Because this dog yoga pose requires that you bend over, you may find that your wrists hurt from supporting your weight. Downward dog for beginners is ideal for increasing your strength and releasing stiff muscles. And yet, you don’t want to exacerbate a condition like weak wrists.

To correct this, when starting downward facing dog pose, use yoga blocks to help you give more balance to your weight when you bend over. Another option is to use a foam wedge or you can roll up a yoga mat, towel or blanket and put your hands on that.

Downward facing dog may appear to be a difficult pose for beginners to hold. It takes time for some to master this asana especially because it requires complete body coordination. If you have trouble with downward dog, a few tips can help. If you have tight calf muscles, bend your knees slightly or put blocks under your hands. These can help to distribute your weight and give you added support and alleviate back strain.

Another tip to help with downward facing dog is if you don’t have shoulder mobility because you slump over. To modify this, use yoga blocks for your hands or try placing your hands on a chair or wall. This can strengthen and support your shoulders and it won’t cause extreme discomfort.

There are many downward dog benefits. This asana can alleviate tension, stress and depression and loosen stiff joints and muscles. If you find that you’re having pain with downward dog yoga pose, use a prop like blocks, a chair or a towel rolled up for added support.


What is downward dog pose good for?

Downward dog pose stretches the back, arm and shoulder muscles. It alleviates tightness in the shoulders, neck, calves and hamstrings and is helpful if you sit for long periods. As a way to increase circulation throughout the body, it can remove toxins and boost your energy level. It also helps to alleviate stress and depression and is recommended for women to help maintain their uterus. An added benefit is it can improve digestive disorders.

Why is it called the downward dog?

Adho Mukha Svanasana or downward dog is from the Sanskrit root words Adho (downwards to the shoulders), Mukha (burrowing), Svana (dog) and Asana (pose). The pose is similar to a dog stretching with its face down to the ground.

How long do you hold downward dog pose?

Hold this pose for 4-6 breaths and as you go deeper into the pose, contract your stomach muscles and remain in that forward bend for the full 4-6 breaths. But, rest sooner if you need to.

Why is downward dog so difficult?

Downward facing dog is hard for beginners to hold as it takes time to develop this type of complete body coordination. Give yourself time and practice with an experienced yogi or yogini who can help ensure your pose is correct.

Why do my wrists hurt in downward dog?

Wrist pain is sometimes a result of this pose because you’re using your wrists to support your weight. To alleviate this, use yoga blocks, a foam wedge, a yoga mat, towel or blanket and put your hands on that.