Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Adho Mukha Svanasana is an important Yoga Asana in which the doer needs to assume the pose of a downward facing dog (a dog when it bends forward, looking down). Therefore, this asana is called Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog Pose.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho = Downward
Mukha = Face, Facing
Svana = Dog
Asana = Pose, Posture
This asana not only stretches your shoulders, calves, hamstring muscles, hand, back and the arches of the foot, but also strengthens the legs, arms and the back.
Preparation for Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Make sure to do this asana on empty stomach. You should eat your food a few hours before starting to practice this asana (4-6 hours precisely). This will give sufficient time for the food to get digested so as to provide you with the energy to carry out this asana with ease, effortlessly.
- Also remember to keep your bowel and bladder clean and empty.
- It is good to do this asana in the early hours of the morning except in unavoidable conditions wherein you cannot perform this asana in the morning due to pre-occupied protocols. In these conditions you can do it in the evening.
Method of doing Adho Mukha Svanasana
Positioning for the Asana
- Stand on all your four limbs such that your body assumes the shape of a table (starting from Bitilasana i.e. cow pose or Marjaryasana i.e. cat pose). This is called Table Top Alignment or Cat-Cow Pose i.e. Marjaryasana-Bitilasana combination.
- You can alternatively begin with assuming Shashankasana (Rabbit Pose)
Performing and getting to the Adho Mukha Svanasana
- After positioning yourself properly and standing on all four limbs taking the table form, exhale slowly.
- While exhaling, gently lift your hips and straighten your elbows and knees. Ensure that your body has assumed a form of an ‘inverted V’.
- Make sure that your hands are in line with your shoulders and also that your feet are in line with your hips. Also make sure that your toes point outwards.
- Now gently press your hands into the ground. Make sure that your fingers are kept stretched and separated apart from each other. Slowly lengthen your neck. See that your ears touch the inner parts of your arms.
- Look towards your navel.
- As an improvisation, do not stand stagnant. Keep peddling your feet by alternately flexing and extending your knees, alternatively with each lower limb at a time.
Release from the asana and coming back to the point of start
- Hold yourself in the pose for a few seconds. Now you are in the Adho Mukha Svanasana Pose.
- Bend your knees as you relax and release gradually and come back to the table position, in which you had started doing the asana.
Tips for Beginners
By chance while in pose if you feel that your joints are stressed, painful or unstable, check for your alignment. Make sure that your knees are right under your hips and also that your hands are beneath your shoulders. Make sure that the creases of your wrists and elbow joints are aligned properly with the mat.
At the beginning you might find it difficult to get your shoulder release right. To get it right you can practice this asana against the wall, until you master it. In this case, make sure that you are facing the wall. Then place your hands on the wall. Walk the hands downwards on the wall until they reach the level of your torso. Your arms should be parallel to the floor.
Advanced pose / variations:
Once you are comfortable and confident of doing this asana to perfection, you can go ahead and intensify the practice so that you draw maximum benefits from this asana.
Increase the stretch in the asana by lifting your body with the help of the balls of your feet while pulling your hips higher. Also pull your pelvis inwards. Drop your heels gradually to the floor and maintain the intensity.
If you want to focus on your arms while doing this asana, loop a belt around your arms. Now press against the belt strap so as to increase its intensity.
If you are intending to focus on your legs place the belt above your knees, on the upper part of your legs and then work on the active leg by drawing your thighs outwards.
Purva and Paschat Asanas
Purva Asanas (Preparatory Asanas)
Before Adho Mukha Svanasana, you can do one or more of the below mentioned Asanas –
Paschat Asanas (Post-Malasana Poses)
After performing Adho Mukha Svanasana one can perform –
Duration, health benefits
What time should be spent in the pose while doing Adho Mukha Svanasana?
One can stay in Adho Mukha Svanasana for a time period of 1-3 minutes at a stretch.
Health Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana
Below mentioned are the benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana –
- It strengthens the abdominal muscles. This asana which is in the form of inverted V, is also a Navasana variant. Just like the Navasana, this asana too provides strength to the abdominal muscles that also help in supporting the spine. This asana also stretches the abdominal and spinal muscles apart from strengthening them.
- The asana tones your hands and feet since your body weight is on your hands and feet while you do this asana. It tones both the limbs and prepares them for a better balance.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana improves digestion since the abdominal organs are compressed and massaged in this pose, including the liver, spleen and kidneys.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana improves circulation in the body. In this asana our body is inverted, the hips are lifted and the head is dropped below the level of the heart. There is a reversal in gravity. This improves blood circulation.
- The asana reduces anxiety levels. The asana helps you to relax and calms your mind, thus it helps in reducing stress and anxiety. The stretch provided to the neck and cervical spine during this asana will help to release the stress in these areas.
Effect of Adho Mukha Svanasana – Ayurveda Details:
Effect on Doshas
Effect of Adho Mukha Svanasana on Doshas and Subtypes
Adho Mukha Svanasana helps in balancing and stimulating Vayu. Mainly it impacts all the Vayus to be precise. By balancing Prana Vayu, the asana helps in keeping the mind and senses serene and settled, wards of anxiety and stress and restores mind health. By balancing Udana Vayu and Vyana Vayu, the asana helps in enhancing circulation of blood and nutrients to different parts of the body. By stimulating the Samana Vayu and Pachaka Pitta, the asana helps in enhancing metabolism and one’s capacity to digest and assimilate the food in proper way. By stimulating Apana Vayu, it helps in proper excretion of feces and urine, provides strength to the excretory apparatus and also lower back. This is further aided by the balancing and calming effect of Adho Mukha Svanasana on the Agna, Manipura and Muladhara Chakras.
Effect on Dhatus
Effect of Adho Mukha Svanasana on Dhatus –
Adho Mukha Svanasana strengthens the mamsa dhatu (muscle tissue) of the abdomen and spine. It also supports, strengthens the asthi dhatu (bone tissue), Snayu (ligaments) and Kandaras (tendons) of the wrist and ankle joints, makes the lower and upper limbs strong and enables a proper balance. Since it stretches the abdomen muscles and provides a good compression, the abdominal organs and digestive organs get a good massage, get stimulated and become capable enough to digest the food properly.
Effect on Malas
Effect of Adho Mukha Svanasana on Malas –
Adho Mukha Svanasana controls the apana vayu functions and also owing to its calming and balancing effect of Muladhara Chakra. This asana helps in proper excretion of metabolic wastes, mainly the feces through the rectum and urine from the urinary bladder by stimulating the apana vayu. By evacuating the body of its wastes, it keeps the body healthy and the lower part of the body light.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, what it promises!
Adho Mukha Svanasana is a good stretch exercise and a work out for the muscles of your back, and limbs. It relaxes the muscles. When you attempt to pull your hands while you take on this pose will escalate the tension in the muscle tendons. In response to the tension provided, the spinal cord signals the muscles to relax. The stretching provided in the muscles by the pose enables release of endorphins. These endorphins in turn relax your mind and body.
Impact on Chakras
Adho Mukha Svanasana effectively balances your Muladhara Chakra i.e. Root Chakra and gives you a confidence of being rooted in the best possible way. You will feel connected to the Earth and start feeling more secured and protected. When you press your hands and feet into the floor, it reminds that you are connected to the Earth. How we treat the Earth is similar to how we treat ourselves. It also helps you to keep connected to your family and friends.
Adho Mukha Svanasana also stimulates and balances the Manipura Chakra i.e. your Solar Plexus since it gives a good massage and compression to the abdomen and abdominal viscera mainly the digestive organs including Liver and Spleen, enhances the blood supply therein and helps maintaining their optimum health. The balance of Manipura Chakra will enable proper metabolism and digestion apart from strengthening and energizing the limbs and torso.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is also a beneficial asana for the health and balance of Ajna Chakra. The balance of this Chakra helps in keeping the mind calm and composed, relieves stress, and enables introspection of self and to realize what are good and what not.
Contraindications and precautions
Who should not do? (Contraindications and precautions for doing Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Adho Mukha Svanasana –
- Dislocated shoulder
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
- Detachment of Retina
- Weak eye capillaries
This seems to be an easy asana but you need to take the opinion of a Yoga expert before doing this asana. Pregnant women should practice this asana with caution and do it under guidance.
Watch this video to follow the method of doing Adho Mukha Svanasana (Beginning from Shashankasana)
Improvising on Adho Mukha Svanasana (Beginning from Cat-Cow Pose)
Starting from Vajrasana
Just Before Finish
Adho Mukha Svanasana helps you in giving a good exercise and workout for your abdominal muscles and spine and strengthens your upper and lower limbs and helps you to regain balance. The asana is also good for mind health and removes anxiety and disturbances of the mind, relaxes you to the core, helps you feel grounded, enhances your metabolism and provides a comprehensive body mind health.
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