This pose resembles that of an upside down letter V. You don’t have to go to a yoga class to reap the benefits of this pose. Instructions at the bottom of the page will take you step by step into Downward Facing Dog (AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna) adho = downward mukha = face svana = dog
Downward Facing Dog has gained lots of attention from acupuncturist because the pose activates the bladder channel. In other words, Downward-Facing Dog has your Back!
The bladder channel is referred to as tai yang, which is the longest channel in the body. There are 67 acupuncture points that run from the inner eye, up and over the head, down the entire spine and posterior leg, along the side of the foot and ending at the pinkie toe. The back is considered the most yang in acupuncture and is where the bladder channel is located. In acupuncture the points along the bladder channel are selected to get rid of cold and flu symptoms, and to boost immunity. The bladder channel is considered the first line of defense against invaders from the environment such as cold, wind, germs, pollen, etc.
Downward-facing dog elongates the entire Bladder channel and enables flow and strengthening the body’s primary defense mechanism.
The bladder channel is used to treat a very wide range of conditions, including pain in any part of the body that’s located along its route––headaches; neck pain; upper, mid and low back pain; pulled hamstrings; calf strains; and foot pain.
The bladder channel is so important to overall health because it contains what are known in acupuncture as the Back Shu Points or points along the backbone. Each of the body’s organs has its own Back Shu Point and they are all located along the bladder channel. These points are the treatment points for acupuncture.
Acupuncturists often analyze these points to collect information about which organ system is involved in a person’s symptoms. If a certain point is tender, or noticeably raised or depressed, it may indicate that something’s going on with that point’s corresponding organ.
The Back Shu Points are traditionally associated with treating chronic diseases such as anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual irregularities, asthma, incontinence, migraines, insomnia, etc. Many acupuncturists think of Back Shu Points as going to the source, the most direct way of affecting a particular organ.
Benefits of Downward Facing Dog
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs and prevent osteoporosis
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Straightens and lengthens the spine helping to relieve pain in the upper, middle and lower back
- Start on all fours with your knees directly under your hips and the palms of your hands slightly in front of your shoulders.
- Make sure that all four corners of your hands are firmly planted on the floor.
- Tuck your toes under and straighten your knees. Draw back onto the balls of your feet, and raise your sit bones as high as possible as you lengthen your back.
- Allow your heels to sink into the floor.
- Continue to draw your tailbone away from your pelvis and allow the stretch in the backs of your thighs to deepen. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Remember to breathe deeply into your abdomen.
- To come out of the pose, lower down onto all fours or…
- Walk your legs up to meet your hands and slowly roll your back, neck and head up into a standing position.
If you have difficulty releasing and opening your shoulders in this pose, raise your hands off the floor on a pair of blocks or the seat of a metal folding chair.
Contraindications and Cautions
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term.
- High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.