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Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and How to Do it 

By Dr. Ankit Sankhe +2 more

Introduction: 

The Sun Salutation, or suryanamaskar, is a yoga practice that comes from the worship of the sun. It comprises a series of twelve asanas. According to yoga literature, while doing suryanamaskar, all muscles of the body experience stretch and pressure. Out of the twelve asanas, the eighth position yoga is adho mukha svanasana. This asana has several benefits, such as improving blood circulation and stretching the muscles of the arms, spine, legs, shoulders and inner thighs.1,2 Now, we will discuss the process of the adho mukha svanasana.  

adho mukha svanasana

What is Adho Mukha Svanasana 

Adho mukha svanasana is also referred to as the downward-facing dog pose, downward dog pose or bent-head dog pose.3 It is the forward bending position. 

Adho Mukha Svanasana is derived from Sanskrit. Here adho means down, mukha means face, svana refers to dog, and asana is a posture or position. This pose is similar to that of a dog facing downward. Hence it is known as Adho Mukha Svanasana. It comes into the class of ‘prone postures’.3 Let’s read about the process of adho mukha svanasana. 

How to do it? 

The process of adho mukha svanasana is as follows: 

  • Straighten your arms and legs on a yoga mat or the floor and extend your hips upwards as you exhale.2 
  • Then, lower your head between your arms so that your ears are parallel to your arms.2 
  • Press your heels on the floor.2 
  • Allow yourself to breathe deeply and feel the stretch in your calves, thighs, shoulders, and arms.2 
  • Keep your neck relaxed and free throughout the process.3 
  • The body resembles the mountain.3 
  • Slowly, come to the original position. This is one round of downward dog pose. 

Do You Know? 

Some fun read facts about adho mukha svanasana are as follows: 

  • Before the 18th century, there was no evidence of adho mukha svanasana. However, it was found that there is a position similar to adho mukha svanasana, named ‘gajasana’ or ‘elephant pose’ in the text ‘hasthabhyaspaddhati’. 
  • A pose similar to adho mukha svanasana was described in Niels Bukh’s early 20th century Danish text named ‘Primitive Gymnastics’. This book described a manner of jumps between poses similar to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga’s system. This was developed from the 19th-century Scandinavian gymnastics tradition. Indian gymnastics also included a set of postures known as ‘dands’, which were connected by jumps and similar to the downward-facing dog pose. 
  • In 1920, the king of Aundh, Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi popularised the name and practice of surya namaskar in his book ‘The Ten-Point Way to Health: Surya Namaskars’. Adho mukha svanasana is one of the twelve poses in surya namaskars.  

The principles of deep relaxation, surrender, and letting go that are cultivated in Adho Mukha Savasana can be applied to daily life. It teaches practitioners to find moments of stillness, calmness, and restoration amidst the chaos of everyday activities.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana: 

Some of the benefits of adho mukha svanasana are as follows: 

1. Benefits of adho mukha svanasana for hypertension:  

One of the best yoga positions to lower high blood pressure is adho mukha svanasana. As it boosts blood flow to the brain, this forward-bending position may allow the heart rate to slow down. This feature may be good to fight the factors contributing to excessive blood pressure. It may also help reduce stress by calming the body and the central nervous system.4 However, please do not rely on adho mukha svanasana because it may not help to get rid of hypertension on its own. So, kindly see a doctor for proper treatment. It is best to try this under the supervision of a trainer. 

2. Benefits of adho mukha svanasana for Chronic Lower Back Pain: 

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is due to an imbalance of weak muscles and poor posture. Colgrove et al., 2019 studied that the downward-facing dog position may help strengthen the arms, legs and lower body in people with CLBP. It may also stretch the chest, back, calves and feet and relieve lower back pain. This might help increase strength and flexibility. As a result, adho mukha svanasana may be beneficial for CLBP.5 However, you should visit a doctor for better outcomes and avoid severe problems. 

3. Benefits of adho mukha svanasana for mental health: 

Phadke et al.,2014 claimed that suryanamaskar yoga such as adho mukha svanasana can alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Additionally, the regulation of breath used in suryanamaskar has a calming effect on the nervous system and calms the mind. 1 But, the result of adho mukha svanasana in improving mental health needs to be explored. Please consult the doctor to avoid complications. 

4. Benefits of adho mukha svanasana for chronic pelvic pain:  

Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) is a condition in which you may have pain below your chest and above your hips that lasts for an extended period. Alison et al., 2017 studied the benefits of adho mukha svanasana and other yoga positions in women with CPP.t may aid in reducing pelvic floor dysfunction, which may include constipation and promote deep breathing, awareness and relaxation, all of which may assist in lowering CPP.7 However, you must see a doctor for better outcomes and to avoid any complications.  

5. Benefits of adho mukha svanasana for tendonitis: 

Tendonitis is when pain and inflammation occur in the tendons, the connections between the muscles and the bones. It can occur in the area near the ankles and wrists. The book ‘The Yoga Beginner’s Bible’, by Morello, 2015, demonstrated that adho mukha svanasana might help manage tendonitis. While doing the adho mukha svanasana, the heels are pressed on the ground. It might help stretch the calf muscles.2 Even so, you must consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

5. Other benefits of adho mukha svanasana: 

Some other benefits of dog pose yoga are as follows: 

  • It may help improve digestion.2 
  • It might help stimulate circulation.2 
  • It may help to relieve leg pain and ankle pain.3 
  • It might help to strengthen the shoulder joints.3 
  • It might help to reduce body mass index, which indicates obesity.4 
  • It may help to reduce chances of organ dysfunction related to hypertension.4 
  • It might help relieve the difficulty in inhaling due to the presence of mucus.6 

Yoga practice may help develop the mind and body; however, it is still not an alternative to modern medicine. You must not rely on yoga alone to treat any condition. Please consult a qualified doctor who will be able to assess your condition correctly and advise accordingly. Moreover, it is necessary to practice and learn yoga under the supervision of a trained yoga teacher to avoid any injuries.  

While in Adho Mukha Savasana, the body experiences a complete stretch from the fingertips to the toes. It elongates the spine, stretches the hamstrings, releases tension in the shoulders, and provides an overall sense of openness and length.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Risks of Exercise 

  • Pregnant women should avoid this pose if they have pain in any part of their body and consult a doctor to prevent further issues. 
  • If you experience any pain in your body, you should avoid this pose. Instead, please consult a physician and do this pose under the guidance of your trainer. 

With the guidance of a qualified and experienced yoga teacher/yoga expert, we can access and analyse the risk factors and continue to practice exercise with precautions.  

Conclusion  

Adho mukha svanasana is a forward bending type of position. It may help stretch the muscles of the legs, hands, calves and inner thighs. This is a rejuvenating pose. It might help strengthen the muscles and improve the blood supply to the brain. Even so, you may avoid this asana if you feel pain in the body while practising it; kindly consult the doctor.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is a downward facing dog pose good for the skin? 

No, although more research is needed to prove the effects of adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog pose on skin. Kindly consult a doctor. 

Does the downward facing dog pose benefit hair growth?  

No, however, more studies are required to determine the effects of downward facing dog pose or adho mukha svanasana for hair growth. Please consult the doctor for health results. 

Is adho mukha svanasana yoga helpful in thyroid function?  

No. However, please consult the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. 

Is adho mukha svanasana effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease? 

No, but more research is needed to prove the effects of adho mukha svanasana on Alzheimer’s disease. 

Does adho mukha svanasana improve blood circulation in general? 

Adho mukha svanasana improves blood circulation in the head. It may also help increase oxygen saturation levels. This might help the lungs and heart to become stronger.6 Even so, you might consult a doctor for better health outcomes. 

References: 

  1. Phadke SS, Joshi RS, Yardi S. Effect on Muscle-Power, Aerobic Capacity and Emotional State after Practice of Suryanamaskar. International Journal of Physiology. 2014;2(1):35. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272730752_Effect_on_Muscle-Power_Aerobic_Capacity_and_Emotional_State_after_Practice_of_Suryanamaskar 
  1. Morello T. The Yoga Beginner’s Bible: Top 63 Illustrated Poses for Weight Loss, Stress Relief and Inner Peace. 3rd ed. Pronoun; 2017. Available from: https://www.pdfdrive.com/the-yoga-beginners-bible-top-63-illustrated-poses-for-weight-loss-stress-relief-and-inner-peace-e176257474.html 
  1. Dr. Nagendra HR, Dr Selvamurthy W, Prof. Dr Patwardhan AR, Dr Frawley D; Understanding the body anatomy through yogasanas: Yoga Vijnana – The Science and Art of Yoga. 2021, Oct-Mar; 1(2): 11-12. Available from: https://yoga.ayush.gov.in/Publications/gallery/JOURNAL/Yoga%20Vijnana%20Vol.%202.pdf 
  1. Satyanarayana P, Vijaya Benerji G, Rekha Kumari D, Meka FB, Kummari NR. Effect of yoga on heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index. J Dent Med Sci. 2013 Jul;8:36-9. Available from: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1048.8141&rep=rep1&type=pdf 
  1. Colgrove YM, Gravino-Dunn NS, Dinyer SC, Sis EA, Heier AC, Sharma NK. Physical and physiological effects of yoga for an underserved population with chronic low back pain. International Journal of Yoga. 2019 Sep;12(3):252. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746048/pdf/IJY-12-252.pdf 
  1. Taru RS, Kaluskar R. The Immediate Effect of Yogasana On Oxygen Saturation Levels in Young Adults. Available from: http://210.212.169.38/xmlui/handle/123456789/10095 
  1. Huang AJ, Rowen TS, Abercrombie P, Subak LL, Schembri M, Plaut T, Chao MT. Development and feasibility of a group-based therapeutic yoga program for women with chronic pelvic pain. Pain Medicine. 2017 Oct 1;18(10):1864-72. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/18/10/1864/3737820 

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