Adho Mukha svanasana is an arm balance, a partial inversion, and a restorative pose. It can be an active pose for stretching and strengthening various regions of the body or a pose we return to for resting during practice.
Below are some benefits of this wonderful pose:
When coming into this pose it's important to keep the hands shoulder distance apart and the feet hip distance apart. Check that the outer sides of the feet are parallel to the sides of the mat. Draw the heals towards the mat, it is perfectly fine if they don't touch the mat - with practice and time this will naturally happen. Bring your awareness to your hands. Are they flat againts the mat? Check that your entire palm is resting firmly into the mat, finger by finger including the thumbs. Think about pushing the mat away from you. Externally rotate your shoulders outwards keeping your arms straight. Bring your gaze to your naval or toward that direction.
This posture is known as a resting posture in yoga. Having the head beneath the heart makes this inversion a wonderful, safe, sturdy pose to practice the many benefits listed above. Remember to practice pranayama here, consciously breathing in and out, equal inhalations and exhalations. And above all, don't forget to smile!
Anatomical Description of Adho Mukha Svanasana
Arms and Shoulders
Triceps straighten the elbows. The front (anterior) deltoids lift the shoulders and arms over head. The infra spinatus anterior minor roll the shoulders outwards. The rhomboids and middle trapezius draw the shoulder blades towards the midline. The lower trapezius draws the shoulders away from the neck.
The erector spinae arches the back slightly. The abdominals contract to draw the internal organs inward and flex the trunk.
Pelvis and Legs
The psoas, pectineus, and sartorius combine to flex the hips and the trunk. The quadriceps straightens the knees stretching the hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus muscles. The tensor fascia lata aids in extending the knees and combines with the frontal portion of the gluteus medius and rotates the thighs inwards. The tibialis anterior and extensor halluces draw the top of the foot upward, causing the heel to sink to the ground, thus grounding the pose.
The Key poses of Yoga: Your guide to Functional Anatomy in yoga, by Ray Long
Yoga Anatomy, by Leslie Kaminoff
Anatomy of Yoga, By Angus and Robertson