My yoga mentor says, with a touch of humor and sass, that “it’s not a real class until you do downward facing dog”. Funny, and somewhat true, because downward facing dog is THE iconic yoga pose people know. Even if they know absolutely nothing else about yoga. It’s sad then that it gets severely butchered by so many. So let’s look at how to do the pose, followed by 5 tips for downward facing dog.
How to perform downward facing dog
Start on hands and knees. Draw the navel to the spine, spread the weight into the thumb and index finger edge of the hands, tuck the toes and lift the hips. Sending the body into an inverted “V” shape. The head stays in line with the spine. Arms are straight, legs and arms are lightly active in an inwards direction.
Tips for downward facing dog
You can see a video below on how to perform the pose, plus tips for downward facing dog featured in this post. We all learn differently and if a photo is worth a thousand words then a video has to be worth a 100 photo’s right? Also remember to like, comment, share and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more good karma content!
Downward Dog Too Short
One of the biggest tips for downward facing dog would be to lengthen your dog. Most people seem to be super short in their stance, needing more distance between the hands and the feet. Typically plank or chatturanga follow downward facing dog and a too short dog can cause wrist issues coming into plank.
Lengthening through from front to back allows more ease in the pose. Plus you’ll be able to seamlessly transition to plank without causing a ton of wrist pain
Heels don’t touch the floor
For some reason in yoga people get obsessed with touching the floor. At all costs. I suggest if your feet don’t reach the floor in downward facing dog, then let the heels be lifted. And be ok with that. It could be lack of flexibility in the back of the legs (calves), it could also just be your bodies structure. Stop forcing it. Instead embrace where you are today.
By far the thing I get requested most, and something I want to address in a future post, is how to fix tight hamstrings. If in downward facing dog you have a screaming sensation happening in the back of the thighs (and possibly up into the buttocks) then say hello to your hamstrings. The problem with forcing the hamstrings to stretch is that it doesn’t help. Instead slightly bend the knees and be kind to your body. Instead fix whatever you’re doing to cause the tight hamstrings in the first place. Hint: it’s probably too much sitting!
Back too rounded
This is generally a problem I see with men, but also a few women. Lack of flexion at the hip. Instead they try to make the hinge happen at the lower back. This causes all kinds of ugly and typically feels tight through the back body. Instead think about bending or hinging from the hip, the crease of your bikini line, and lifting from there. Sometimes it could be lack of awareness of the hip joint movement, so I suggest checking out this post. The previous cues to lift the heels, and bend the knees can help also. Sometimes this can be due to poor shoulder mobility, but that deserves a post all on its own.
Arms too bendy
Yoga does seem to attract bendy people who ironically need less stretching and more strength. This flexibility can often be seen in downward dog as super bendy arms. They almost scoop and dip down to the floor with just their arms or shoulders. Less is more for these people. Think about a long straight line from the tailbone to the crown of the head and out through the arms. It’s not a curved line! The tip here is to slightly bend the elbow and back OUT of the pose a little. Do less, to get more strength and stability.
- What issues do you have, or do you see in downward facing dog?
- Do you have any other questions about downward facing dog?
- Are there any other poses you’d like tips for?
I seriously loved this. I searched a lot to find something like this. Very well explained, good photos, and, mostly, good tips and observations.
Thanks! What other poses would you like tips for?
These are great tips, thanks for sharing! One thing I am hoping to do in the new year is start yoga as something to do for myself and make time for myself so I will definitely bookmark this post for then as I am sure it will come in handy!
Yeah now is probably not a good time to start any habits, the holiday season get’s kinda crazy. Come back soon for more yoga!
Thank you for the tips. Especially because I’m not that flexible. Next time I do yoga I will try it out.
Let me know what areas you want more flexibility in and I’ll throw it into my editorial calendar!
This is interesting to see how it should be done I am sure it is very easy to make those small mistakes!
Yep, every body is different, so the tips can help make things a little easier
What Mum Loves
I remember attempting the downward facing dog position for the first time. I thought- oh, how easy. And then I realised that it actually only looked easy. Thanks for all the tips, they helped me a lot to do the downward-facing dog pose correctly this moring x
hah! Lots of yoga poses like that!
This is fab. I love the step by step guide. Always looking to get into yoga xx
Yep, I try to make things easy as possible. We all learn differently
I did yoga a few times on a recent holiday but my body isn’t that good at getting into the positions. But there are some great tips for the position here x
Thanks,so glad they helped!
What great tips! And your illustrations are super. I remember it took me several years to get the hang of this pose – I would’ve gotten into good form sooner if I’d had this visual guide!
thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful!
I’ve never done yoga but it’s so true, downward facing dog is the one I know. I really want to start giving yoga a try so thank you for the tips.
Oh you should definitely give yoga a try, it’s a great stress reliever!
The bendy arm one is what gets me, I see it done that way so much on Instagram and it drives me nuts. Proper form when it comes to down dog makes a huge difference!
Oh girl don’t get me started on the insta yogi’s!
Natural Beauty And Makeup
In the morning I do pranayam and basic yoga poses but have never heard of this! I will try to do this once my backpain subsides
love pranayama, been doing a lot of that lately. Down dog is a basic yoga pose.
I just started back practicing Yoga, I still need to practice a lot of moves and I still need to be flexible. Thanks for sharing this.
We do yoga to get flexible 😉
I do really love that stretch! It’s so great for your back! Especially sciatic pain!!
yep it can be great for backs! I have another post on yoga for back pain!
I’ve made a few of these mistakes, especially when I was starting out. My husband and I both started doing a bit of yoga to stretch out in the mornings. I’ll have to show him this because he was just asking if he was doing it correctly.
The only correct is the one that feels good.
I do this ALL THE TIME when I need a good stretch! Its seriously the best!
It really is a great pose to get rid of tension!
These are amazing tips!!! I recently started Ashtanga yoga and there is a bunch of asanas that include downward facing dog. Great tips.
I love doing this when I need a great stretch! It really makes me feel so much better after!
Yep, it’s a fantastic stress reliever!
Yes down dog is used in most yoga practices. Ashtanga is a little too intense for me.