DOWNWARD FACING DOG - ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA

I LOVE THIS POSE. I respect it mightily.  It’s not easy for sure but it’s accessible enough for everyone to get into. 

My favourite thing at the moment (and something I keep stressing to my students) is to bring a bend to the knees even if you don’t have too!  As someone who is naturally hypermobile I always thought that I had ‘nailed’ this pose as my legs were super straight.  But now I prefer to soften the knees and get a little more height in the sit bones.  I find that I get a much better back stretch and it even intensifies the stretch in the back of my legs because my sit bones are higher. 

Key alignment points:

  • Hands shoulder width distance apart
  • Feet hip width distance apart 
  • Focus on straight spine and sit bones high to the sky rather than straight legs
  • Actively press the floor away and press down firmly through the finger tips
  • Drishti is either towards the navel or in between the feet.  Do what feels best on the neck. 

Modifications:

  • If the heels don’t touch the floor you can place a blanket or a rolled up mat underneath to support.  Keep the knees soft.  If the wrists are giving you grief you can also use a mat or blanket under the heel of the hands.
  • If you have a shoulder injury or aren’t feeling strong enough for downward facing dog try substituting the pose for Childs Pose (Balasana), Tabletop or Puppy Pose (Anahatasana).

Variations:

  • 3 legged dog – Lifting one leg to the sky while the other stays grounded. Can take this with either square hips (both hips level to the floor) or with open hips (one hip stacks on top of the other).  Try to keep the shoulders even and keep pressing the floor away so you don’t collapse.
  • Twist – bring the right hand to the inside of the left ankle and look under your underarm. 
  • Lifting opposite hand and foot – This one is great for working core and balance.  Work slowly and don’t forget to breathe!  From downward facing dog lift the right leg (keep the hips square) and slowly come up onto the fingertips of the left hand.  Begin to creep the left hand out to the left. Either stay here or lift up onto only one finger.  From here you can completely lift the left hand from the floor and place the hand on the lower back.

I could speak about Downward Facing Dog for hours so I think I’ll leave it there and perhaps we can revisit the pose another time.