Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the basic asanas in the method of yoga we teach, but in many other methods as well. However, we often see our students struggle with this asana, which is by no means easy. This asana requires some strength in your upper body as it essentially is an arm balancing partial inversion, as well as flexibility of your back leg muscles, so the struggle is real:) and it comes not only from the lack of strength, but also from the lack of flexibility. Hyper-flexible students, on the other hand, might find this asana very comfortable, usually due to overusing their flexibility and not strength. Because not everybody’s the same, we’ll go through alignment tips for both - less flexible and hyper flexible students.
General tips for this basic asana is - hands shoulder distance apart, fingers spread, wrist line aligned (parallel) with the top of the mat. Feet are parallel to each other (central line of the foot) and hip distance apart. This is an arm balance, so you need to press the floor with your hands to find stability and shift weight from your arms, up your spine, to your legs. Don’t overdo the pushing action, find a good balance. Arms and torso should be in one line if possible, but if you are tight in your shoulders, this may not be easy. In that case, ask your teacher to show you ways you can work towards a healthy, 180° ROM (Range Of Motion) without putting weight on the joint (using the wall, Anahatasana etc.).
Inner sides of the elbows should be turned toward each other. The distance between hands and feet should be the same like in plank, but if you are a beginner, you can shorten the stance by half foot as the plank distance is challenging at the beginning and requires more strength.
Engage your arms, legs, and especially lower belly to protect your lower back.
Please note that different methods give different alignment tips for Downward Facing Dog, this one is based on the method we teach at Sangha. We base these tips on anatomy and biomechanics. Please ask us in the studio or comments below if something needs clarification.
Adho Mukha Svanasana don’t #1
Don’t over-arch (flex) your back. In Downard Facing Dog, your back should look more or less straight, and, if possible, in line with your arms.
The spine often flexes because it compensates less flexibility in the hamstrings (back thighs), like on the photo.
Adho Mukha Svanasana DO #1
Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to release the hamstrings and work on straightening your back rather than straightening your legs. There are better and safer ways to stretch your hamstrings than in this asana, so use Adho Mukha to work on your stability and upper body strength rather than flexibility.
Adho Mukha Svanasana don’t #2
We often see students with (hyper) flexible shoulders hanging in their shoulder joint like on the photo. This is similar to shortening the asana (shortening the distance between hands and feet), as it transfers the weight of the torso back, making it easier to hold weight. However, making it easy is not the intention here.
Shoulder joint is the most flexible, but at the same time most prone to injuries. Keep it safe by avoiding this hyper flexion.
Adho Mukha Svanasana DO #2
If you are already flexible, work on stabilisation and strength rather than more flexibility.
Keep the right distance between your hands and your feet, push the earth with your hands and align the head between your arms, creating more of a line between your torso and your arms (meaning a more healthy, 180° flexion.