Downward facing dog (Adhu Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit) is one of the most common and most recognizable positions in yoga. This is one pose that is used in nearly all forms of yoga. Whether you take a class in a studio, at a gym or practice at home with a DVD, downward facing dog is likely to be one of the first yoga poses you learn.
Start on your yoga mat on your hands and knees with your hands about the width of your shoulders apart. Tuck your toes under and raise your knees, while at the same time pushing back from your hands to lengthen the back and shoulders. Push up with your hands and feet to form an inverted V shape with your hips and buttocks forming the center of the V and your arms and legs stretched out from there. Your back and arms should form a straight line. Relax your head and work your ankles down to the mat.
Early in your practice, you may have to modify the pose a bit, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Downward facing dog is a challenging pose because it requires you to straighten the legs and spine at the same time.
Some people find that working on straightening the spine first is the easiest way to master this pose. Initially, it is fine for the knees to be slightly bent or the heels to not reach the ground. Gradually, you will reach a point where the spine and legs are straight. The last step is to work the heels down to the mat.
Downward facing dog offers several benefits. This pose works to strengthen the hamstrings, calves, back muscles, arms, hands and wrists. Downward facing dog is said to offer relief from back pain, head aches, stress and tension. It can also help improve circulation.