Doing Downward Dog

When my 5-year old son came home from school and wanted to show me “down doggie,” I thought he was going to try a training trick with our maltipoo pup. Come to find out he was doing yoga in his class and they learned downward dog. If you are even the slightest bit familiar with yoga, you’ve probably heard of downward dog. It is a staple pose in most classes, and named after how dogs naturally stretch their entire body.

Why is it used so consistently? Check out the many benefits:

It energizes your body– All movement stimulates your internal system, but when you heart is above your head, known as an “inversion,” blood flow increases to the brain and moves through the body in unique ways. There are myriad benefits to this type of position.

It’s a full body stretch– from your outstretched arms, to the elongated muscles of your back, to the calves, this pose stretches it all. A note of caution- if you have tight calves or hamstrings, be aware of possible pain when you hold the position.

It loosens up the back-for those who suffer from pain in the back and shoulders, downward dog can help improve flexibility through the lats and shoulders.

It builds bone density-in this pose you have your weight on your arms and shoulders, so you are building strength and improving bone density. This is great for women as we age due to risk for osteoporosis.

As you are in the pose, notice what your body feels. What feels tight? Tender? Stiff? or Sore? Can you wiggle a bit to get the kinks out or are you noticing a need for a more consistent flexibility program? Downward dog is a great pose to do in the morning, before bed, at the end of a work out, or when you’re just feeling the need for movement. We hope you make this one a habit.

How to do it:

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Tuck your toes and spread your fingers and press down evenly through your hands and feet as you lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis (your booty) toward the ceiling, and straighten your legs without locking your knees.
  • Your body should be in the shape of an inverted V.
  • Try to pull your hips and thighs backwards and lengthen your spine without moving your hands.
  • Keep your upper arms in line with your ears and keep your neck relaxed without dangling your head.
  • Hold this pose, remaining aware of your body while you take steady breaths.


Short video on downward dog

Detailed breakdown of form with options for modifications:


4 things to watch out for when doing downward dog


lorri sulpizio

About lorri sulpizio

Lorri is a former college-basketball coach and personal trainer, turned leadership professional. She is Director of the Leadership Institute at the University of San Diego and principal consultant at Lotus Leadership Institute. She loves anything fitness, reading and spending time with her kids and family.