Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
Meaning of the Name:
Adho Mukha – face facing the floor
Shvana – dog
Asana – body position
Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the yoga asanas that every attendee of yoga classes first meets and practices, it is a traditional part of the Surya Namaskara series, ie. Greetings to the Sun, and can be practiced on its own.
The recommended hold in this asana is 1-3 minutes.
This is an inverse position of leaning on the arms and moderately difficult to perform.
What do we all achieve by performing Adho Mukha Svanasana?
Joint mobility: There are many approaches to activating the joints in this position, which directly affect the entire spinal column.
Muscle activity: In this position, the psoas major muscles are active, the oblique abdominal muscles, and the deep extensors of the spine contract very precisely in order to keep the spinal column in a neutral position. Legs and arms resist the force of gravity. In the legs, the vastus muscles and subcrureus muscles are active, as well as the foot muscles. When performing this asana and preventing the shoulders from sinking, the triceps muscle of the upper arm is activated. The activity of the deep muscles of the hand is essential for the stability of the whole arm. The hand must behave like a foot as much as possible, and in that way, it will aim to maintain the integrity of the arches. External and internal hand flexors are engaged to prevent hand weakness.
Leg muscle activity: Hamstring muscles, gastrocnemius muscle, the soleus muscle, gluteus maximus muscle. It is necessary to relax the psoas major muscle, the quadriceps femoris muscle, the rectus femoris muscle, the anterior tibialis muscle, the tensor fascia late muscle and the pectinate muscle.
Hand muscle activity: The broad muscle of the back and the teres major muscle elongate. The long head of the triceps muscle contracts.
Improved breathing: The dog-facing position is an intense position with an axially extended spine. Since the diaphragm naturally moves upwards in that position, the exhalation movement is performed by the abdominal muscles and it can be deep. If the contraction of the lower abdominal muscles is at the beginning of the inhalation (mula bandha), the structures of the thoracic region will be encouraged to move, which can be quite a challenge in the position of supporting the body with the hands.
What are the benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana?
Benefits: Calms the mind and helps with stress and mild depression; It stretches the shoulders, hind legs, thighs, ankles, and arms; Strengthens arms and legs; It helps with menopause and reduces menstrual discomfort; Helps prevent osteoporosis and treat high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, and sinusitis; stimulates digestion; helps with headaches, insomnia, fatigue and back pain.
Contraindications: The last stages of pregnancy; Diarrhea; Carpal tunnel syndrome; In case of high blood pressure and headache, perform this asana with a blanket under the head. Keeping in position is not recommended with cervical spondylosis.
Note: Beginners are advised, if they feel tightness in their legs, to do this asana with slightly bent knees or the heels of their feet to lean on a wall or yoga block.
What are the most common mistakes when performing Adho Mukha Svanasana?
The most common mistakes are shifting the weight of the body more to the arms, ie. uneven distribution of body weight on arms and legs. The fingers of the hand are slightly separated. Instructions from certified teachers are necessary in order to properly benefit the anatomical placement of the body in a position to benefit from this yoga exercise.
Wrote – Biljana Nikolic Yoga Therapy Teacher 500 RYT
Text translation Ana Manasijević Kosjer
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