Adho Mukha Śvānāsana – Downward Facing Dog

English name: Downward Facing Dog
Adho = Downward
Mukha = Face
Śvāna = Dog

This pose is considered to be many things:  a standing pose, a forward bend, an inversion and even a backbend.  It is considered to be a restorative pose for a tired body and mind, a calming one for an overexcited mind, and for somebody who is feeling dull it can also be an invigorating pose. 

  • If in and out of the pose: not necessary to support the head.
  • If long stay: use support under head.
  • Support under the hairline: opens the chest more.
  • Support under the crown of the head: Cooling for the brain. Use depending on sequence.
  • Classical pose: hands and feet aligned.
  • Beginners: may keep hands and feet on the outer edges of the mat.

Basic Instructions (going in from Tāḍāsana)

  1. Stand in Tāḍāsana
  2. Come to Uttānāsana, place the palms on the floor by the sides of the feet (shoulder distance apart)
  3. Bend the knees and take the legs back one at a time (3 or 4 feet back, depending on the student). Feet as wide as the hips.
  4. Spread the fingers and the palms and press them down on the floor
  5. Lift the hips high up and with an exhalation move the chest towards the legs
  6. Keep the anterior legs very long.
  7. Take the thighs and heels back (people with hyperextended knees be careful and pay attention to take the top of the shin bone forward and lift upward from the back of the knee instead of pushing the knee back)

To come out: Bend the knees and rest in Adho Mukha Vīrāsana.

Note: One can go into AMS in various different ways and there is no one “right” way.  In this article we only talk about one way of going into the pose, that is from Tāḍāsana.

Corrections – Usual points of unawareness (In order of Importance)

  • Straighten the legs – Straighten the arms (but understand the source of the action for each)
  • Keep the sitting bones lifted high.
  • To raise the hips more, lift the heels and then bring the thighs back.
  • Bring more weight to the thumb and index finger sides of the hand – don’t let them come up.
  • Press both hands equally on the floor, bring more weight towards the legs.
  • If you are squeezing the trapezius towards the neck in the pose – increase the distance between the hands (even if the fingers stick out of the yoga mat) and turn the palms out; regular practice of  shoulder mobilizing and shoulder stabilizing poses such as Urdhva Hastāsana (with and without belt, with brick between the palms, etc..), Urdhva Baddhāṅguliyāsana and Parvatāsana will be effective. If experienced enough, the following poses can also be helpful: Gomukhāsana, Namaskārāsana, Urdhva Namaskarasana, Paścima Namaskārāsana and Paścima Baddha Hastāsana.  The above list is by no means exhaustive, since many many more poses can be done in order to improve our understanding of the shoulder girdle and the muscles involved.

Variations to learn Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (this is not an exhaustive list)

  1. Hands against the wall (thumbs and index fingers as in “mitten hands”)
  2. Hands against the wall and head rested on a brick
  3. Hands against the wall, but raised up on a brick
  4. Hands against the wall, with bricks at an angle (placed vertically) against the wall
  5. Hands against the wall, brick between feet, knees, thighs, groins
  6. Feet against wall
  7. Feet at a height (on bricks, or on chair)
  8. Heels raised and pressing a rolled blanket
  9. For a more restorative pose use wall ropes or a belt and door handle (must be done under the supervision of a teacher the first few times for safety)


For headaches or high blood pressure, place a support for the head. This brings a calming feeling and blood pressure comes down – never keep the head hanging.

However, in the case of low blood pressure, one would not support the head.

Use the ropes for a more restorative pose.

If knee pain:

  • Start by observing the alignment of the knees and legs
  • Straighten the legs – pull the kneecaps up – tighten the quadriceps – lift the inner thighs
  • Do not hyperextend the knees (if you’re not able to lift up your kneecaps your knees might be hyperextended)

If back pain:

  • Using your awareness, start by observing the alignment of the back
  • Keep the heels on the wall (and even a little up the wall) for support – this helps to maintain alignment
  • Make sure you are doing the actions of the legs specified for “knee pain”
  • Observe that the lumbar region is not pushed in and that the tailbone is not sticking out. Maintain a largeness and spaciousness across the lower back.

If hip pain:

  • Start by observing the alignment of the hips and the buttock bones (you can always ask somebody to look at the alignment of your hips)
  • Make sure you are doing the actions of the legs specified for “knee pain”
  • Do the pose with your legs wider apart
  • A block between your thighs (to be pulled up and back) can also help bring more clarity to that area


  • When exhausted, a longer stay in the pose removes fatigue and brings back lost energy.
  • Specially good for runners.
  • Develops speed and lightness in the legs.
  • Strengthens the ankles.
  • Eradicates stiffness in the region of the shoulder blades and arthritis of the shoulder joints is relieved.
  • Abdominal Muscles are drawn towards the spine and strengthened.
  • The diaphragm becomes light and soft and the cavity of the chest increases.
  • As the diaphragm is lifted to the chest cavity: the heart rate slows down.
  • Possible to do instead of Śīrśāsana: healthy blood is brought to the stretched trunk without strain on the heart.
  • Rejuvenates the brain cells and invigorates the brain by relieving fatigue.