The Benefits of Downward Facing Dog Pose: Muscle Groups Targeted and Safe Techniques as Guided by Physical Therapists

Downward Facing Dog is the most classic and fundamental pose in yoga, but many people feel sore or have strains in the back of their thighs after doing it. How can we do a beautiful Downward-Facing Dog pose safely?

What is Downward Facing Dog, and which muscle groups are stretched?

Downward facing dog is actually an imitation of a dog’s stretch, with the hands and feet on the floor and the hips pushed up toward the ceiling, creating a full-body extension.

Upper Body Muscle Groups to Stretch

Pectoralis Major and Minor

These two muscles on the front of our chest are easily tightened by sitting or using a computer, causing problems such as a hunched back and chest tightness.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi extends from the upper arms down the back and connects to the pelvic floor, which is a large muscle. If it’s too tight, it will not only affect your shoulders, but also cause back pain. In downward-facing dog, the arms are extended to the sides of the ears, which can stretch the wide muscles of the back.

Lower Body Muscle Groups that can be stretched

Gluteus Maximus Muscle Group

The gluteus maximus is the main muscle group of our buttocks, and exercises such as squats, hip thrusts, or bridge poses all target the gluteus maximus for training. Therefore, downward facing dog can also be a good stretching exercise after hip training.

Hamstrings and Calf Muscles

The muscles at the back of the thighs and calves often become tight due to prolonged sitting and walking, and Downward Facing Dog can be a good stretch for them.

What is the ideal downward dog pose?

When flexibility is sufficient, the ideal downward facing dog pose is shown in the figure below.

Upper body without shoulder shrug and hunchback

Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your spine straight to avoid shoulder shrugging and hunchbacking, so you can effectively stretch your upper body muscles and train your upper body support and shoulder blade muscles.

No overbending of the waist

If the thigh and calf muscles are not flexible enough to reach the heel on the floor, overly tight posterior thigh muscles will pull the pelvis and cause the lumbar spine to curve, which can easily lead to lower back muscle strain and pain.

Other variations of Downward Dog

Knee Bend

While still keeping the heel on the floor, you can stretch the deeper muscles of the lower leg and repeat the knee bend and straighten exercise.

Single Leg Raise

Because you must maintain body stability while lifting your foot, you can stretch one leg at a time, work your core muscles, support one foot, and challenge your upper body stability.

Usually, downward dog is most likely to cause injury due to the desire to pull too tight, forcing the heel to the ground beyond the limits of flexibility, or the lumbar spine being too bent, causing back pain. So, do not rush it and slowly and gently stretch to keep the spine upright to avoid injury in downward dog.

Reference: Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Fundamentals of Rehabilitation, 3rd Edition

Nuli Team’s first physical therapist, Jaime, is now online! If you like her article, please refer to her IG.

Posted inFitness, Training
28 Jul, 2023

Unlocking the Golden Week of Menstrual Weight Loss: Shedding 2 Kilos Extra! Understanding Menstrual Cycles for Effective Weight Management

Before menstruation, the secretion of estrogen and luteinising hormone (LH) increases, both of which cause body fat to rise. Luteinising hormone also increases the secretion of aldosterone, whose main function is to retain sodium in the body. As a result, water is easily retained in the body, causing water retention and edema.

Posted inFitness, Training
20 Jul, 2023

Finding Your Perfect Training Schedule: A Comprehensive Overview of Beginner and Advanced Classes | Nuli Complete Classes Introduction and Comparison

Nuli's programs are categorized into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels based on their difficulty. If you have limited experience with plyometrics and are unfamiliar with many of the movements, we recommend choosing the beginner level. Additionally, if you have some past experience but have taken a break from exercising, the Beginner's Plan can help you ease back into a regular exercise routine and gradually return to an appropriate level of intensity.

Posted inFitness, Training
20 Jul, 2023

Unlock the Secret to a Great Butt: Effective and Easy Hip and Leg Training with Warm-up, Scheduling, and Stretching for Newbies | Fitness Concepts

To check for an anterior pelvic tilt during squats, compare the position of the bottom edge of your ribs and the top edge of your pelvis to see if they are parallel to each other. Cross your arms over your waist at the softest part of your hip muscles and slowly move up to touch the bone at the bottom of your ribs and down to touch the bone at the top of your pelvis. Ideally, these two planes should  閱讀更多 »

Posted inFitness, Training
20 Jul, 2023

How to Lose Weight with 10 Minutes Daily! Beginner’s Summer No-Impact Fitness Routine | Knee-Friendly Home Exercise Plan

When comparing barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, several differences and advantages come into play. Let's explore them Are you eager to start exercising but worried that it might be too intense for your heart if you're not used to it? With the pandemic keeping many people at home and leading to reduced physical activity, weight gain has become a concern. If you're looking to begin a simple exercise routine at home and have these concerns:

Posted inFitness, Training
11 Jul, 2023

Barbells vs. Dumbbells vs. Kettlebells: Exploring the Differences, Advantages, and Disadvantages | Three-Day Advanced Fitness Plan Included

When comparing barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, several differences and advantages come into play. Let's explore them Higher Weight Capacity: Due to the increased stability required, individuals can typically lift more weight with a barbell compared to dumbbells. For example, someone may be able to bench press 40 kilograms with a barbell but struggle to bench press 20 kilograms with a dumbbell in each hand. Lifting heavier weights with a barbell allows for greater muscle, bone, and nervous system stimulation.

Posted inFitness, Training
10 Jul, 2023

10 Effective Fat-Burning Exercises for Home Workouts: Slim Down with Freehand Aerobic Movements | Essential for Weight Loss and Postpartum Slimming

10 Home Cardio Moves to Challenge Yourself: A 10-Minute Moderate-to-High Intensity Routine (with Demonstration Video)  Get Sweating and Burn Calories! 10 Home Cardio Moves to Challenge Yourself: A 10-Minute Moderate-to-High Intensity Routine (with Demonstration Video)  Get Sweating and Burn Calories!

© 2023 Nuli, LLC

Mobile app