How To Do Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

How To Do Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

Three-legged downward facing dog, or tri pada adho mukha svanasana in Sanskrit, is an asymmetrical yoga pose designed to test your balance and transition your body from downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) into other yoga postures with ease.

This pose is fantastic for beginners because it prepares your body to do deeper yoga postures like Crescent Lunge and Splits. Because three-legged down dog is an antecedent for many yoga poses, you do it in almost every vinyasa class.

A three-legged down dog feels OM-azing on your hips after sitting at your desk all day, too. Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself.

 

How to Perform Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

1. Set-Up

  • From a table-top pose, press back to a downward-facing dog.
  • Place your hands shoulder-distance apart and parallel your wrist creases to the front of your mat.
  • Spread your fingers wide with more weight on your forefinger and thumb to protect your wrists.
  • Send your chest toward your heels.
  • Straighten each leg and drop your heels down (it’s ok if your heels don’t touch the floor).
  • Align your knees over your second and third toes to protect your knee joints.

2. Get Into The Pose

  • Press your palms into the mat.
  • Lift one leg into the air as your opposite leg stays on the mat.
  • Straighten your arms to engage your biceps and press your shoulders back to work your triceps.
  • Spin the eyes of your elbows forward and hollow out your armpits to push your chest closer to your feet.
  • Gaze behind you.

3. Proper Alignment

  • Lift your leg and maintain evenness in your hands, arms, shoulders, and hips.
  • If you feel your hips moving out of alignment, square them forward.
  • Squeeze the base of where your glute meets your hamstring to sail your leg into the air.
  • Keep your other foot on the mat still.

 

Benefits of Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

Three-legged downward facing dog encourages length in your spine, strengthens many major muscle groups, and increases your hip-joint mobility.

Because your head is below your heart, a three-legged down dog is an inversion. Inversions may intimidate many yogis at first, but three-legged downward facing dog is an uncomplicated inversion that can help you get over your fear of being upside down.

Inverted poses may improve your ability to concentrate since they increase circulation to your brain and calm the nervous system. So, try getting upside down after a long day at the office to find your zen.

 

Beginner’s Tip

Learning a new yoga pose is challenging. Trust the process and your body when trying out new postures. Tune in to what feels right for you rather than what you think the pose should look like.

  • Keep a soft bend in your knees to avoid any strain on potentially tight muscles.
  • Focus more on the lift of your pelvis rather than getting your legs straight (straight legs may round your upper back putting unnecessary pressure on your shoulders and spine).
  • Be mindful of your alignment. A straight back and soft knees will release tension and prevent shoulder or hip injuries.
  • Engage your muscles to strengthen the area around your joints.

Modifications for Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

When you need to modify, avoid lifting your leg too high as this may throw your body out of safe alignment. Work within your level of mobility and lift your leg only a few inches away from the mat, if needed. It is best to work on strengthening your muscles before you over-stretch them—flexibility takes time.

Deepen the Pose (increase the challenge)

Some of us are naturally flexible and need to increase the level of intensity of a posture.

  • Keep your hips square like two headlights on a car.
  • Squeeze your hips in toward the midline of your body to activate your outer glute muscles (gluteus medius).
  • Press your grounded heel down into the mat to stretch the arch of your foot and lengthen the backside of your supporting leg.
  • Hold for three or more breaths to build more upper body strength.

You can find three-legged downward facing dog pose and other great yoga moves in Openfit streaming yoga program, Yoga52!

About

Nicole Doherty is a 500-RYT Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher, singer and writer. She is certified through YogaWorks under the tutelage of Joan Hyman and Jeanne Hieleman. Nicole is also the Marketing Manager for domestic and international YogaWorks teacher trainings. She teaches private clients as well as public classes at YogaWorks, Goda Yoga and Hot8Yoga in Los Angeles. Nicole is the yoga expert columnist for American Athlete Magazine. She also writes for a variety of health & wellness blogs, including her own. You can find her also on Facebook and Twitter.