6 Preparation Poses for Downward Facing Dog

by | Jan 8, 2018 | Climbing, General, Tutorial

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is one of the most quintessential yoga poses. No matter what style of yoga you practice, you will have undoubtedly come across it. For climbers, this pose is exceptional for: 

  • Increasing chest and shoulder flexibility,
  • Strengthening shoulder stabilising muscles (good for pre-training).
  • Increasing the flexibility in the back of your legs,
  • Strengthening your arms, shoulders, core, ankles, feet.
  • Decompressing your spine and joints after a demanding training/climbing session.
  • Creating simultaneous extension and stabilisation (good for reducing injury risk).
  • Turning on the body-mind connection!


Preparation Poses

Some people use Downward Facing Dog to warm up for the rest of their practice. But, if this is a pose that challenges you then you may want to stretch out the back of your legs, shoulders and chest first. I’ve suggested some poses below, but remember to do what works for you.

Balasana (Child's pose)

Come onto all fours: hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Slide your hips back to rest your buttocks on your heels, arms stretched forward. Let the body settle, and as your lightly press your forehead into the floor, feel the front of your neck release. Let the breath expand the back of your body, releasing any tension through the shoulders, neck, spine and feet. Hold for a few breaths.

Twisted Child's Pose

Inhale and lift your head and chest off the floor. Walk your hands to the left side of your body. Let your right elbow bend but continue to reach the left arm around, creating a deep stretch through the left side of your body. As you exhale, lower your head and chest towards the floor again. Use your inhalations to expand your left side body. Keep your shoulders level by continually pressing the right hand softly into the floor. Hold for a few breaths and then move to the right side and repeat.

Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)

Come back onto all fours: knees under hips, hands under shoulders, feet hip-width apart. Exhale lift your back body towards the ceiling, feeling your spine curl upwards, pelvis tip backwards, tailbone descending. Press your hands into the floor and feel your upper back broaden. Let your head lower, relaxing through the neck.

Bitilasana (Cow Pose)

Come back to a neutral position with your spine. Inhale and lower your belly towards the floor, feeling your pelvis tilt forward and tailbone lift. Roll your shoulder blades down your back, bringing your upper chest forward. Lift your head to look forward. Lightly ‘magnetise’ your hands and knees towards each other to get a deeper opening through your front body. Repeat your Cat and Cow tilts as many times as you like to warm up your spine

Uttana Shishosana (Puppy Pose)

From your table top position, slide your hands forward enough that, when you exhale, you can drop your forehead and chest to the floor whilst keeping your hips positioned over your knees. If you want a deeper chest opener, then you can lift your forehead from the floor and come to rest on your chin. Hold for a few breaths, letting each exhale soften your shoulders and front body.


Come to a standing position with your feet positioned under your hips, feet parallel to each other (think railway tracks). Press your feet evenly into the floor and engage your thighs. Place your hands on your hips. As you inhale, roll your shoulder blades down your back to lift your upper chest. As you exhale, hinge at your hips, lightly pulling in your belly, and fold forwards with control. Fold half way and lengthen your spine as you inhale. Exhale and then continue to fold forward (bending your knees if you need to). Press evenly through your feet, and feel the tops of your legs pull up into your hips, tailbone ascending, lightly pulling your belly and lower ribs towards your spine. Stay soft through your neck. Take hold of each elbow and let the weight of your upper body lengthen and decompress your spine.

Fantastic! You’re now ready to move into Downward Facing Dog. In this article I break Downward Facing Dog into 3 stages so you can progress without compromising your alignment and form. For climbers this is important for maintaining good shoulder stability. Plus it feels amazing! 

–– Enjoy the process!