PGM Wellness | Hatha Yoga Series: Adho Mukha Svanasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) is an asana incorporated into every level of practice. It is a dynamic pose that builds strength, muscle memory and teaches you some great fundamentals of alignment. It is also a pose that truly does almost everything. Kind of like that one person you know, who on top of working a full-time job, is also doing ten other things in their spare time...and doing them really well. Or like discovering that in addition to serving your favorite meal, your favorite restaurant, now serves your favorite wine (!!!). You know, all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips kinda thing? So it’s like that, but in yoga.

Let me explain: in adho mukha svanasana you receive a slight inversion, a small backbend, an under arm and shoulder stretch, lengthening in your spine, and as long as you work the pose you will most certainly experience a release in your hamstrings and backs of your legs. Dang! What a pose! 

If you have ever been told that adho mukha svanasana is a resting pose or if you have ever treated it as such then I’d argue you are missing out. Whether you are a beginner or advanced, this is an asana that is worth “working”. People who experience wrist pain in this pose may benefit from proper shoulder integration and hand placement that alleviates pressure in the joints. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or any injuries consider the modifications below. 

In animal language, when dogs take this stance it is one of play. When we begin our practice in a position like adho mukha svanasana or balasana (child’s pose) in which you bow with your head below your heart, it symbolizes reverence, respect and honor. Use this pose to  cultivate both a reverence, respect and light-heartedness within you and your practice. Use it as a placeholder as well to remind yourself of this.

 PGM Wellness Hatha Yoga Series: Adho Mukha Svanasana



  • Begin on all fours in a tabletop position: Place your hands beneath you, shoulder-width distance apart and bring your knees slightly back behind your hips, hip-width distance apart.
  • Tuck your toes, lift your hips and straighten your legs back into adho mukha svanasana
  • Point your index fingers forward and turn your pinkies slightly out so that there is a direct line from the tip of your forefinger to your wrist, inner elbow, and shoulder.
  • Press your hands firmly down into the mat (especially your knuckles and finger pads), make your arms straight and squeeze your hands into towards each other until you feel your muscles fire up.
  • Retract your arm bones in and up into your shoulder sockets and then lift your under arms up and away from the ground, as if you were sucking your armpits in and up towards you.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades slightly towards one another and draw them down your back. Simultaneously sink your chest and upper back down towards the ground and maintain that lift in the arms and shoulder integration onto your back.


  • Come up onto your tip toes and bend your knees a few inches and lift your sit bones up and back so that your side body gets longer and you feel more of a curve in your low back. Gently begin to straighten your legs. If you have lost that curve keep a slight bend in your knees until you feel it again and hold there.
  • Use your hands to press your hips back more and find more length in your spine. Whether or not your knees are straight, work your legs by pressing down into your feet and isometrically hugging your legs and heels in towards each other.
  • Stay here for 3-5 breaths (about 15-30 seconds) and then release.



  • Avoid this pose if you are in your third trimester
  • If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis or wrist/shoulder injury modify by coming down onto your hands and knees back into tabletop


Go deeper…

Stay in adho mukha svanasna for up to one minute. To make this a more restorative pose place a block beneath you and rest your forehead on top. Stay here for 30 seconds to one minute.


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