I get asked about Adho Mukha Svanasana/ Downward Facing Dog a lot. For good reason – it’s a pose that makes a lot of demands on your body that are quite different from the demands of daily life. For one thing, you’re bearing weight on your hands. For another thing, it requires a lot of mobility in your shoulders, hips, wrists, and ankles. When this mobility isn’t present (totally normal, by the way!), it can be really hard to balance your weight appropriately between the arms and legs, and to feel good through the spine, among many other things.
If Downward Facing Dog is a problem pose for you, here are a few things to consider:
Prioritize the experience over the shape. In the West, yoga has become synonymous with making shapes with the body, so it’s no wonder we can get caught up in the details of how the body looks in the pose. The original intention of yoga is more about building ease and stability, developing discernment, and letting go of our expectations. If yoga is about feeling comfortable and at ease, how can you change the shape of the pose to fit those goals?
Bend your knees, and don’t worry about your heels. It’s pretty common to feel more comfortable with bent knees – and absolutely normal if your heels don’t touch the ground. Instead of trying to straighten the legs, let them bend and imagine the lower belly and the upper thighs drawing towards each other (they don’t have to touch).
Raise the hands off the ground. You can try placing your hands on blocks (make sure they can’t slip), on the seat of a chair, or on the wall. This will shift how you’re bearing weight in the pose, and can be helpful for a wide range of issues.
Consider just skipping the pose. There is absolutely no benefit to attempting Downward Facing Dog repeatedly if it isn’t serving you! In my classes, I try to let folks know where we’re going next so that you can find another way to meet us there, but even if your teacher doesn’t do this, you can always take Child’s Pose, wait and meet up in another pose that works better for you, or do your own thing. It’s your practice!
Downward Facing Dog Variations
Balasana/ Child’s Pose is often offered as an alternative for Downward Facing Dog – but this is a pose that doesn’t work for a lot of people either, and it’s only the best option for certain situations anyway.
So if Downward Facing Dog doesn’t work for you and you still want to work on the pose, what can you do? Here are some different options. Which one works best for you?
Variations with a Chair
Hands on Blocks
Other Poses with Similar Shapes
Want more support with your Downward Facing Dog?
If you’re still feeling stuck, here are some ways to get more support:
- Ask your questions in the comments, or click here to send me a message.
- Sign up for an online or in-person private session to troubleshoot your Downward Facing Dog.
- Click here to find other ways to work with me.
The information, instruction, and advice contained in this post are in no way intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.