Yoga Pose – Downward-Facing Dog – (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
In its ideal form the Downward-Facing Dog assumes the shape of an upside-down V, resembling the shape of a dog when stretching after lying down, with only the hands and the feet touching the floor.
It is one of the most essential postures in yoga practice, stretching and rejuvenating the entire body from the feet all the way up to the hips and down through the wrists and hands. Because the head is lower than the pelvis this pose is often classified as an inversion posture.
The Downward Facing Dog posture works as a preparation for standing poses and as a warm-up of the muscles at the beginning of most of the yoga practice. In many styles of yoga, this yoga posture is repeated many times during yoga class. It provides a transition between poses, especially in Sun Salutation and Vinyasa yoga style.
The Downward-Facing Dog is supported equally by the upper and lower extremities but a common beginners’ mistake is to compromise and leave the arms and shoulders relaxed. For the Downward Dog to be properly supported, the muscles of scapulae (which connect arms to the torso) have to remain engaged at all times.
This yoga posture stretches the shoulders, shoulder blades, arms, hands, lower back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons. It strengthens the entire back, alleviates lower back pain and eases stiff neck. It expands the chest, increases circulation, especially to the brain, and rejuvenates the whole body.
Holding this pose for a minute or longer will stimulate and restore energy levels when you are tired. Regular practice of this yoga posture will gently stimulate the nervous system, improving memory and concentration.
The Downward-Facing Dog yoga posture is highly to be praised for so many benefits. However, there are some health conditions where this posture should not be practiced.
Three important reasons (out of many) not to do Downward-Facing Dog:
1) Do not practice this yoga posture if you have Carpal tunnel syndrome;
(It is compression of the median nerve at the wrist, which may result in numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle atrophy in the hand and fingers. The disease typically affects the thumb, index, and middle fingers and is often particularly troublesome at night).
2) Avoid this posture in late-term pregnancy.
3) If you are suffering from a recent or chronic injury to the back, hips, arms or shoulders do not attempt this yoga posture.
Caution: Always check with your doctor if you have any doubts or concerns regarding the suitability of this pose for you. Issued in the interest of people practicing Hatha Yoga by Subodh Gupta, corporate yoga Expert based in London.