Downward-Facing Dog 101

By: Justin Anne Patterson, Yoga Teacher at Indigo Yoga

Chances are, if you’ve ever participated in a yoga class, seen others practicing yoga or even heard of this magical movement we westerners know as “Yoga”, you know Downward-Facing Dog. Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit. 


I like to think of it as “the comfy T-shirt” of all asana (or yoga poses). I’ll explain! It’s not flashy or covered in sequins.  It’s not necessarily Instagram worthy, but it works. On everyone. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It’s the pose that always fits. You come back to it again and again. It’s one of THE MOST important poses in your practice! Not only does this pose strengthen your upper body, tone your core and stretch your hamstrings and calves, but it’s also GOOD FOR YOUR INSIDES TOO!

Your head is positioned below your heart, bringing your blood pressure and heart rate down. It also lowers cortisol levels (stupid stress hormone). Just remember, downward facing dog (just like that T-shirt) is going to look different on everyone, and that’s okay! 

Form and Alignment

So let’s dig a little deeper into this pose.  We’ll start at the beginning of class. You’ve gone through a few rounds of cat/cow in table top position, and the teacher cues “tuck your toes and lift your hips. Downward-Facing Dog”. So what’s next?

  1. Start by taking a look at your feet. They should be about hips width apart.

  2. Reach your heels towards the earth.  So what if they don’t actually touch the ground. No big deal- they’re headed there. If your hamstrings feel tight bend your knees a little.

  3. Firm up your core to support your spine, and wrap your front ribs in.

  4. Slide your shoulder blades down your back (also make sure that your shoulders aren’t scrunched up around your ears).

  5. Take some weight out of your wrists by pressing into your finger pads and knuckles of your hands.

  6. Relax your neck and take your eye gaze down the tip of your nose. 

Justin Anne in Downward-Facing Dog

You should be good to go! Pedal out your feet and shake your tail feather.  Keep coming back to this “old comfy T-shirt” and I promise you, it will get even better with more wear. Now go enjoy your practice and remember, it’s JUST Yoga.


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