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It may not come as naturally for people, but you can learn to master the downward dog yoga pose!
It may not come as naturally for people, but you can learn to master the downward dog yoga pose!
It’s happened to just about everyone: you’re in a yoga class or watching your new Bikram yoga DVD, and it’s time for downward dog pose. Simply watching some yoga poses is enough to make you wince, but you figure that down facing dog can’t be too painful.

But after about five seconds of shaking wrists and hands that keep slipping off your yoga mat, you realize that it’s not as easy as it looks.

Still, downward dog is worth learning. It tones and strengthens your entire body and can also help to alleviate back pain. It’s also one of the most common yoga positions you’ll see in classes and DVDs, so it’s worth learning how to do it right.

A perfect downward dog is within your reach if you follow these simple tips. Try implementing them one at a time and watch your down facing dog gradually improve.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Your knees should be right below your hips, and your hands should be just above your shoulders with your fingers spread out. Curl your toes under.
  2. When you exhale, lift your knees up off the floor. At first, your leg muscles will probably be tight, so don’t force the pose right away. If your heels don’t naturally drop toward the floor, or if the pose feels tight, slowly “walk” your legs. Keep your feet still, but alternately bend and straighten each leg like you’re walking in place. After a few stretches, you should feel much looser. If your heels still don’t touch the floor, you can put a rolled up towel under them. And if you’re a beginner, there’s no shame in learning the pose with bent knees and straightening them when you’re ready.
  3. Push your thighs back and straighten your knees without locking them (again, the rolled towel trick can help you with this until you have the hang of it).
  4. Let your head hang between your straight arms, or if it’s more comfortable, look at your belly button. It’s tempting to let your shoulders hunch up toward your ears, but the position is much more comfortable if you pull them down. Concentrate on maintaining a long neck. Again, if you’re a beginner, you can put a block under your head for support, although some people don’t find that very comfortable. Also, rotating your upper arms out can help to release the tension in your shoulders.
  5. One problem that many people experience is slippery or shaky hands. Generally, this is caused by not shifting your weight far back enough. Try lifting your pelvis a little higher, causing a slight arch in your lower back. This will move your center of gravity backwards, helping to keep your hands still.
  6. As with all yoga positions, don’t forget to breathe!
  7. To come out of down facing dog, bend your knees toward the floor and come back to a kneeling position.


  1. Jessika
    October 15, 2008

    Wow, I tried that for a couple of days and it is a really nice stretch.

    Leave a reply
  2. steve (yoga DVD / video)
    January 21, 2009

    Nice clear instruction and I love the dog pic.

    Leave a reply
  3. Kendra
    November 12, 2009

    Theres’ no Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog) in Bikram.

    Leave a reply
  4. steve (mr yoga dvd)
    May 21, 2010

    Down dog is a great inversion pose. Just a little each day will change your life even if you don’t practice other poses regularly. Try it for a while. Great article.



    Leave a reply
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  7. Jay (yoga DVDs)
    August 10, 2010

    The poses were names after animals so I really enjoyed this picture of the “downward dog”

    Leave a reply
  8. Maria @dailydownwarddog
    October 1, 2010

    YES – Downward Dog is an awesome pose!

    Wow – love that picture! Where did you find it? I’d be interested in purchasing it – if it is available. Please let me know!!

    Leave a reply
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  11. Omar
    March 9, 2011

    a good advise I got from my yoga teacher is to strech your hamstrings before doing a downward facing dog. she recommended stretching hamstrings with the aid of a yoga strap or belt. you would do that by lying on your back placing the strap on the bottom of your foot, straightening the leg and then gradually pulling the leg towards you. hold the stretch for a minute on each leg. It really does help a lot in warming up your hamstrings and making them more flexible.

    Leave a reply
  12. Michelle
    April 7, 2011

    Great tips! But they don’t do downward dog in Bikram.

    Leave a reply
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  15. bem
    December 12, 2011

    every thing ew learn is from nature

    Leave a reply
  16. Maryellen Elcock
    February 3, 2012

    Love this post – dogs teach us everything! I take the cue from my dogs every morning as they stretch – a great reminder to take time and take care of my body, mind, spirit.
    Maryellen Elcock
    Creekside Critter Care, Auburn, WA

    Leave a reply

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