Deep Dive into Down Dog

Downward Dog PoseDownward-facing Dog Pose,] or Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Sanskrit: अधोमुखश्वानासन; IAST: Adho Mukha Śvānāsana), is an inversion asana in modern yoga as exercise, often practised as part of a flowing sequence of poses, especially Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun  The asana does not have formally named variations, but several playful variants are used to assist beginning practitioners to become comfortable in the pose.

Downward Dog stretches the hamstring and calf muscles in the backs of the legs, and builds strength in the shoulders. Some popular sites have advised against it during pregnancy, but an experimental study of pregnant women found it beneficial.

Downward Dog has been called “deservedly one of yoga’s most widely recognized yoga poses” and the “quintessential yoga pose”.  As such it is often the asana of choice when yoga is depicted in film, literature, and advertising. The pose has frequently appeared in Western culture, including in the titles of novels, a painting, and a television series, and it is implied in the name, YOGΛ, of a foldable computer.

History of Downward Facing Dog

The name comes from the pose’s similarity to the way a dog stretches when getting up. The Sanskrit name is from adhas (अधस्) meaning “down”, mukha (मुख) meaning “face”, śvāna (श्वान) meaning “dog”, and āsana (आसन) meaning “posture” or “seat”.

The name is not found in the medieval hatha yoga texts, but a similar posture, Gajāsana (Elephant Pose), was described in the 18th century Hațhābhyāsapaddhati; the text calls for it to be repeated “over and over again” from a prone position.

Description

The pose has the head down, ultimately touching the floor, with the weight of the body on the palms and the feet. The arms are stretched straight forward, shoulder width apart; the feet are a foot apart, the legs are straight, and the hips are raised as high as possible.

The pose is approached differently in different schools of yoga. In Iyengar Yoga, the pose can be entered from a prone position, with the hands beside the chest, setting the distance between hands and feet.  In schools such as Sivananda Yoga, the pose is practised as part of Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun, for example following Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Dog Pose) by exhaling, curling the toes under, and raising the hips. In the Bihar School of Yoga, the pose is named Parvatasana, Mountain Pose, the hands and feet somewhat closer to each other so that the angle at the hips is sharper; it is entered from a lunge (Ashwa Sanchalanasana) in a variant of Surya Namaskar. (wiki)

Benefits of the Pose

  • Strengthens hands, wrists, low-back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon
  • A great stretch for your feet, hamstrings, calf muscles, and biceps
  • Opens and strengthens shoulders
  • Strengthens triceps and bicep
  • Helps you connect to your core.
  • Can be calming after strenuous poses
  • Strengthen quads, hip flexors, and knee joint
  • Increased full-body circulation
  • Decreases back pain by strengthening the entire back and shoulder girdle
  • Elongated shoulders and shoulder blade area
  • Decrease in tension and headaches by elongating the cervical spine and neck and relaxing the head
  • Deepened respiration
  • Decreased anxiety
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