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Downward-Facing Dog: Adho Mukha Svanasana

Sometimes you have to let life turn you upside-down, to learn how to live, right-side up.

For anyone who has ever heard “…allow yourself to rest in down-dog” this pose can quickly become the pose you love to hate.  As you turn yourself upside-side down, gravity starts to pull on you and not in the ways you are used to.  Where do you start to find yourself grounded especially if your heels do not touch the floor? How do you balance your weight equally between your arms and legs, centered in your core?  Are you trying to achieve strength or a stretch?

If you are true beginner, take gravity out of the equation by standing with feet hips-distance apart about a legs-length (3 feet) away from a wall.  Hinge at your hips with your knees slightly bent and place your hands flat to the wall at a level where your torso and arms are parallel to the floor.  Now imagine the wall is the floor.  Begin with your hands working through the fingers, the arms and the shoulders, the spine and the pelvis and finally into the thighs ending with the heels (where most people begin!).  If you are unable to move through the steps in one area, keep starting back at the hands rather than moving to the legs and feet.

  1. Spread your fingers and make sure your index fingers are parallel or rotated slightly outward

  2. Extend your fingers and press through joint at the base of your index finger as if you were trying to hold up the wall from this point

  3. Rotate the forearms inward and the upper arms outward (the creases of your elbows should end up facing one another rather than forward)

  4. Allow the crown of your head to extend straight in line with your hands and tuck your chin slightly (do not look up).

  5. Keeping your shoulders broad, extend the upper back without sinking the chest downward.

  6. Lift the tailbone arching the low back and then draw the lower belly strongly in and upward.

  7. Rotate the thighs inward and feel the ‘SITS’ bones become broader – you may even your spine get longer, finding space between the ribs and hips.

  8. Push outward with the lower calves as you slowly allow the heels to reach ground firmly away from the ‘SITS’bones beginning to straighten the legs.

When you are ready, turn around and invite gravity to the game.  Start in a table or all-fours position.  Slowly follow the same steps as above starting with fingers and hands.  Don’t forget to breath deeply, slowly and evenly at least one breath per effort or adjustment.  If you get fatigued, return to child’s pose sitting hips back at heels and take a few breaths before beginning again with the fingers and hands.

Take a few breaths to feel the challenge of gravity and to feel your body’s response to the new pressures placed on you.  Feel yourself balance between what is known and what is not known.  Rest here in your efforts noticing the stretch and the strength, the top and the bottom, moving upward and downward at the same time.

What other challenges could you learn to love if you took them step-by-step?


  1. High Blood Pressure (practice at wall)

  2. Wrist problems or pain (begin at wall, on forearms or with fists or wrists supported straight in 0 degrees extension)

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