Adho Mukha Svanasana, more commonly known as Downward Dog, is one of the most widely practiced yoga poses on the planet. You could probably even call it the poster child of yoga poses.
In almost every style of yoga, you’ll find yogis doing the old Downward Dog. It’s routinely practiced in Iyengar, Bikram, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga yoga styles.
At first glance, Downward Dog doesn’t look like an overly difficult pose. However, if you’ve been practicing for awhile, then you know it requires strength, flexibility, and stamina to perform correctly.
Downward Dog is one of the few yoga poses that strengthens and stretches almost every muscle in the body. At the same time, it provides the benefits of other poses, like inversions and backbends.
So what will happen if you practice Downward Dog every day?
You’ll Work All the Muscles of Your Upper Body
We tend to hunch over at our desks, computers, and mobile phones throughout the day, which causes tension and tightness in our chest and upper backs. There’s even a word for it now – computer hunch.
Downward Dog is a great pose to stretch those muscles and relieve that tension. By stabilizing your upper body in Downward Dog, you engage and strengthen the muscles of the arms, chest, back, and shoulder area.
You’ll Stretch & Strengthen Your Legs
Walking, standing, and sitting all day causes the glutes, hips, hamstrings, and calves to get tight.
Downward Dog will help stretch and release these large muscle groups. It stretches and opens up the backs of your legs from the glutes, along the hamstrings, and down to the calves.
Simultaneously, you’ll flex and strengthen the front of your legs, including your hips, quadriceps, and ankles.
You’ll Strengthen Your Core
Downward Dog is essentially an inverted Boat Pose. If you’re familiar with Boat Pose, then you know it’s one of the very best poses for strengthening and toning your entire abdominal area.
The act of engaging your abdominal muscles and pulling your navel into your spine also works the digestive organs and helps improve your body’s ability to properly digest food.
You’ll Tone Your Hands & Feet
Since Downward Dog is a weight-bearing pose, it will work your hands and feet, as well as prepare you for standing poses and arm balances.
Grounding down through the hands, and spreading your fingers wide, work your fingers, hands, and wrists. As you press your heels down, the pose also strengthens and stretches the Achilles tendons, arches, feet, and toes.
You’ll Strengthen Your Bones & Joints
Downward Dog helps strengthen your bones and improves your bone density, which is key for preventing osteoporosis.
It’s especially great for strengthening your wrist and ankle joints. If you work at a computer all day, you know how tight and overworked your wrists can get.
While in the pose, the angle of the wrists and ankles is only about 45 degrees, which helps protect from overstretching.
You’ll Boost Circulation
Downward Dog is actually an inversion, since your head is lower than your heart. Just like with a headstand, it improves the flow of blood throughout the body and gets blood flowing to the brain.
The improved blood circulation helps flush toxins, boosts immunity, and regulates blood pressure.
You’ll Release Tension & Melt Stress
The act of stretching and elongating the cervical spine and neck helps to relieve tension along your spine. Allowing your head to relax will help ease your tension and stress.
The flow of blood to the brain calms the nervous system, improves memory and concentration, as well as relieving stress. It also provides relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression.
You’ll Bring Awareness to Your Breathing
Downward Dog is typically used for pauses while doing sun salutations or vinyasa flows. During the pause, you can really focus in on your breath.
At the end of the day, yoga is all about your breath. If you’re not fully breathing throughout your poses, then you’re not practicing yoga. Downward Dog will help you come back to your breath.
Downward Dog is one of the most versatile yoga poses you can do. It’s not only a relaxing pose, but also a naturally energizing pose. According to legendary yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar:
“A mere minute in this pose will bring back lost energy for runners after a hard race.”
Iyengar also famously called Headstand the “king of yoga poses.” However, if I could do only one yoga pose, it would be Downward Dog. It provides the benefits of an inversion like Headstand while simultaneously stretching and strengthening almost every muscle in the body.
Whether you have a favorite yoga class that you go to regularly, or you prefer home practice, you’ll find great benefits from practicing Downward Dog each and every day.
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