Adho mukha shvanasana

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Downward-facing dog

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Sanskrit: अधोमुखश्वानासन; IAST: Adho Mukha Śvānāsana), downward-facing dog pose or downward dog,[1][2][3] is an asana in modern yoga as exercise, often practised as part of a flowing sequence of poses, especially Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun.[4] Downward dog has been called "deservedly one of yoga's most widely recognized yoga poses".[5]

Etymology and origins[edit]

The name comes from the Sanskrit words adhas (अधस्) meaning 'down', mukha (मुख) meaning 'face', śvāna (श्वान) meaning 'dog',[4] and āsana (आसन) meaning 'posture' or 'seat'.[6]

The posture is similar to Gajāsana (elephant pose) in the 18th century Hațhābhyāsapaddhati; the description calls for the pose to be repeated "over and over again" from a prone position.[7] Adho Mukha Svanasana is not described in the medieval hatha yoga texts, but it, together with a 5-count format and a method of jumps between poses resembling Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga's system, was described in Niels Bukh's early 20th century Danish text Primitive Gymnastics, which in turn was derived from a 19th century Scandinavian tradition of gymnastics; the system had arrived in India by the 1920s. Indian gymnastics, too, had a system of postures, called "dands" (from Sanskrit danda, a staff), linked by jumps, and one of the dands is close to Adho Mukha Svanasana. The dand exercises were not considered to be yoga in the 1930s. Swami Kuvalayananda incorporated the pose into his system of exercises in the early 1930s, from where it was taken up by his pupil the influential yoga teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.[8][9]


The pose has the head down, ultimately touching the floor, the weight of the body on the palms and the feet. The arms are stretched straight forward, shoulder width apart; the feet are a foot apart, the legs are straight, and the hips are raised as high as possible.[10]

The pose is approached differently in different schools of yoga. In Iyengar Yoga, the pose can be entered from a prone position, with the hands beside the chest, setting the distance between hands and feet.[10] In schools such as Sivananda Yoga, the pose is practised as part of Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun, for example following Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Dog Pose) by exhaling, curling the toes under, and raising the hips.[11] In the Bihar School of Yoga, the pose is named Parvatasana, Mountain Pose, the hands and feet somewhat closer to each other so that the angle at the hips is sharper; it is entered from a lunge (Ashwa Sanchalanasana) in a variant of Surya Namaskar.[12]

In culture[edit]

Yoga Journal has called downward dog "deservedly one of yoga's most widely recognized yoga poses".[5] The Tico Times has called it the "quintessential yoga pose",[13] noting that it is often chosen by film-makers when they need to depict a yoga class in progress.[13] Mukti Jane Campion, presenter of the BBC programme The Secret History of Yoga, called the pose "iconic".[14]

Downward dog pose has many artistic and literary mentions; for example, Saatchi Art features an acrylic on canvas painting entitled "Downward Dog" by Steve Palumbo;[15] and the name of the pose was chosen for an ABC television comedy show,[16] and as the title of a 2013 novel by Edward Vilga.[17] Chantel Guertin named her humorous 2013 chick lit novel, balancing relationships, yoga, and cosmetic surgery Stuck in Downward Dog,[18] while the yoga teacher and author Tracy Weber named her series of crime novels The Downward Dog Mysteries.[19] Texas Monthly used the name for its review of the downfall of the Anusara Yoga founder, John Friend.[20]

The yoga teacher and author Erin Stewart writes that downward dog has been used in advertising for the Lenovo "Yoga" device which can be folded (hence its name, she explains) to serve as a laptop computer or as a tablet, so that "it's the gadget itself that's doing the pose".[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Downward-Facing Dog". Yoga Journal. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  2. ^ VanEs, Howard Allan (12 November 2002). Beginning Yoga: A Practice Manual. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-9722094-0-3.
  3. ^ Calhoun, Yael; Calhoun, Matthew R. (June 2006). Create a Yoga Practice for Kids: Fun, Flexibility, And Focus. Sunstone Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-86534-490-7.
  4. ^ a b "Adho Mukha Shvanasana". Ashtanga Yoga. Archived from the original on 23 April 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b YJ Editors (28 August 2007). "Downward-Facing Dog". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 13 July 2019.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Sinha, S. C. (1996). Dictionary of Philosophy. Anmol Publications. p. 18. ISBN 978-81-7041-293-9.
  7. ^ Mallinson & Singleton 2017, pp. 95, 124.
  8. ^ Singleton, Mark (4 February 2011). "The Ancient & Modern Roots of Yoga". Yoga Journal.
  9. ^ Singleton 2010, pp. 200-206.
  10. ^ a b Iyengar 1979, pp. 110-111.
  11. ^ Lidell 1983, pp. 34-35.
  12. ^ Saraswati 2003, p. 166.
  13. ^ a b McLennan, Jennifer (23 June 2011). "Downward dog: Get your butt in the air". The Tico Times. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  14. ^ Campion, Mukti Jane. "What's behind the five popular yoga poses loved by the world?". BBC. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  15. ^ "Downward Dog". Saatchi Art. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  16. ^ Framke, Caroline (2 July 2017). "Downward Dog, a weirdly lovely show about a talking dog, belongs on TV — just not ABC". Vox. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  17. ^ Vilga, Edward (2013). Downward Dog (Kindle ed.). Diversion Books.
  18. ^ Guertin, Chantel (2013). Stuck in Downward Dog. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1770411609.
  19. ^ Weber, Tracy (2014). Murder Strikes a Pose (Downward Dog Mysteries). Midnight Ink. ISBN 978-0738739687.
  20. ^ Swartz, Mimi (May 2012). "Downward Dog". Texas Monthly.
  21. ^ Stewart, Erin (25 March 2019). "How Yoga Poses are Used in Advertising".


External links[edit]