Performing the Head-down Dog Pose: steps and tips

What is an upside-down dog?

The downward dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit) is one of the best known and most used poses in yoga. Whether it be during sequences or sun salutations, the upside down V always makes an appearance. Why integrate this asana (posture) so often in the flows? Quite simply because it is considered a posture of transition. Let me explain: from this posture, you can access many other positions, and this very easily.

What are the benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana?

Like all postures in which the heart is placed above the face, the upside down dog position is considered an inversion. This type of posture has many physical and psychological benefits such as:

  • reducing tension in the neck and back;
  • renewed energy and motivation;
  • improvement of immune defenses;
  • decrease in blood pressure (blood rushes into the head which in turn sends messages to the heart);
  • improved sleep, etc.

The peculiarity of the head down dog is its ability to simultaneously exercise flexibility and strength . In addition to the virtues seen previously, this asana allows to:

  • strengthen the back muscles;
  • open the hips, psoas and pelvis;
  • soften wrists and ankles;
  • improve the digestive system;
  • free the shoulders and chest;
  • strengthen leg muscles such as the thighs;
  • increase concentration, etc.

Warning: there are contraindications for people suffering from high blood pressure or repetitive migraines.

How to achieve the downward dog posture?

Obviously, there are no secrets. Like all yoga postures, you have to practice regularly, persevere and go at your own pace so as not to rush your body. This is the best way to successfully do the downward dog pose correctly. To help you progress, here is how to perform the posture step by step.

  1. Start from the four-legged position, paying attention to your alignments: the shoulders should be above the wrists, and the buttocks above the knees.
  2. Crochet the toes in the ground and on the exhale, push the tailbone towards the sky.
  3. Keep your arms straight, and if possible your legs, for several breaths.

Additional posture information: 

  • Your palms and all your fingers are resting on the ground. Your indexes are parallel. Thus, you will be able to distribute your weight correctly and find a good balance.
  • To visualize, your belly must touch the top of the thighs.
  • If it is not possible for you to straighten your legs, you can lift your heels off the ground and bend your knees.
  • You must have a straight back.
  • Consider pushing back the floor with your arms, and clearing your ears from your shoulders. You should not be contracted even if the posture requires effort

What are the variations of the upside-down dog?

While the basic version of the downward-facing dog is done with both hands and both feet on the ground, there are several other variations . Some make it possible to fill a lack of flexibility or to remedy physical problems, and others to make further progress in stretching the body.

1. Variation of the hands in the upside down dog

To go further in your practice, you can choose to do the posture with one hand on the ground. This will add a more in-depth twist and stretch.

If, on the contrary, you want to reduce the pain in the wrists because they are still fragile, you can place a towel under your hands, perform the posture on the elbows or join your hands (examples in pictures below)

2. The dog upside down with blocks

If you feel stuck in your shoulders and back, that shouldn’t stop you from hanging upside down. To relieve yourself, you can place yoga blocks under your hands so that you are elevated.

What are the mistakes not to make?

There are several mistakes to avoid in the Adho Mukha Svanasana posture. Indeed, these could create tension in your back for example, but also slow you down in the progression of the posture. To illustrate my point, nothing better than a few examples in pictures.

If despite all these explanations about the dog upside down, you are still not a big fan of this position, remember that more than half of the work is done thanks to the mind . Give yourself intentions and your body will perform the posture more easily. Your mentality will condition your body for success, or failure . You will find Adho Mukha Svanasana in the vast majority of yoga classes, be it Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga, Hatha yoga, etc. You might as well familiarize yourself with this posture as soon as possible to learn to appreciate it at its true value. If you now wish to discover other yoga postures, I invite you to share your proposals in the comments so that I can meet your needs.

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