āsana lab: downward facing forearm dog pose

I’ve chosen this pose because it teaches you the proper positioning of the shoulders, armpits, upper back and lumber spine for headstand. It’s an ideal pose to build strength in the upper arms and shoulders, bring flexibility to your upper spine and back of your legs.

Please note that a safe headstand with good alignment of the entire body requires regular practice of the introductory poses as taught in the Iyengar method until it is fully understood and ingrained.


I have given you a lot of tips which you may not be able to achieve all in one go. Have several attempts gradually adding a new new action until you manage to achieve the full pose. See tips for stoic and flexible bodies below.

  1. Sit on your heels, stretch your arms forward coming into child pose with the brick between your wrists.
  2. Come to kneeling, turn your palms up, lift your inner wrist up and bring your thumbs to the floor, tuck the back of your forearms facing the floor towards each other bringing the elbows slightly narrower than shoulder width and the outer elbows down.The objective as you come up is to keep the thumb side down which will help turn the biceps towards the triceps, broaden your shoulders and turn the armpits towards each other. The next stage is to open the armpits, upper back and lengthen the spine.
  3. Tuck your toes under and to come up keep the thumb side down, push the centre of your forearms into the floor, the back of the wrist down and extend the fingers. Lift the hips up high, with the frontal hip bones towards you and stay on the balls of the feet ensuring that the centre of both legs are facing you.
  4. Open the armpits towards the legs as much as possible keeping the thumbs down, biceps towards the triceps, shoulders broad and armpits facing each other.
  5. Maintain the height of the hips with the frontal hip bones towards you as you lower the heels 1 cm reinforce the action of the hips and hip bones and bring the heels down a further cm. Continue gradually bringing the heels down as much as possible at the same time as lifting the hips up with frontal hip bones towards you.
  6. When the heels reach the floor push the lower shins back to maintain the heels down and extend the toes from the neck of the toes. Be on the four corners of your feet and push the inner ankles to the outer, lift the arches of your feet, your inner legs and inner groins. Keep the outer legs and knees back as you hit the top thighs and inner groins as the furthest spots back. Then stretch the inner groins to the outer groins along the crease of the buttocks and reinforce the height of the hips maintaining the frontal hip bones toward you.


stiff bodies

  • If you can’t open the armpits and the upper back then bend your knees maintaining the height of your hips.
  • You can also do the pose with your elbows on a ledge, forearms perpendicular holding a foam block between your wrists with your palms facing you. With this option you can keep the legs straight and apply the same actions.

flexible bodies

  • It is essential that you keep the thumb side down biceps to the triceps and shoulders broad to avoid compressing the shoulder joints.
  • When lifting the hips don’t dip the lumbar spine. Instead keep the height of the hips and at the same time pull the frontal hip bones toward you.

Dina teaches Iyengar yoga open level on Tuesdays at triyoga Chelsea. To view her schedule and book a class, please click here.

She will also be teaching a series of monthly junior intermediate workshops at Chelsea, happening on Sunday 10th June, Sunday 1st July, Friday 21st September and Friday 23rd November (soon to be on sale!).

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