12 muscles used in downward dog and the benefits

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Have you ever tried to perform a downward dog during your usual yoga practice?

Well, if you regularly perform this easy stretch, chances are that you already understand its benefits for your body and mind.

But did you know that one of the reasons people enjoy this pose is that it stretches their entire body? Yes, believe it or not, performing poses like the downward dog requires working all 12 muscles in your body!

Let’s explore which muscles are being worked in the downward dog and what the associated benefits are for your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

1) Core muscles

Let’s start with the core muscles.

If yoga or exercising is a regular part of your routine, you probably understand how many exercises are focused on working your core.

Well, personally, I was surprised when my trainer was always referring to stretching core muscles regardless of whether I was doing HIIT exercises, yoga stretches, cardio exercises, or weight lifting.

The truth is that the core muscles are the ones that support your spine and body, and they are in constant use.

These muscles, which include the abdominals, hip flexors, and lower back muscles, are responsible for maintaining your posture and keeping your spine and torso stable during various activities.

But how does the downward dog pose help you stimulate your core muscles?

In the downward dog pose, the core muscles are used to maintain a balanced and upright posture. This requires the core muscles to contract while the hip flexors and lower back muscles have to be relaxed to allow for a bent knee position.

You can try this pose and feel the core muscles working instantly as you try to maintain an upright posture.

Now you might wonder why focusing on core muscles is so important.

Well, a strong core is important for a healthy body, and the downward dog pose stretches your core muscles.

However, there’s one thing you should know: improving your core power depends on making tiny variations to downward dog.

In fact, if you want to use your core muscles while doing the downward dog, you need to raise your lower body in the air and make small movements with your legs. Don’t forget to maintain your upper body still.

That way, you can target your core muscles and build power in your core.

2) Hamstrings

Now, let’s talk about the hamstrings.

The hamstrings are located on the back of your thighs and make up a large portion of the lower part of your body. They are engaged when your knees are bent and your feet are behind you in the downward dog pose.

They are responsible for extending and flexing your leg at the knee joint.

As you can see, these muscles are important for supporting and controlling the movement of your legs.

But how does this relate to the downward dog pose?

It turns out that the inversion of a downward dog directly helps you stretch your hamstring muscles.

In the downward dog pose, you will be bent at the knee, which will stretch these muscles as well as build strength in them.

It is important to note that there are different variations of this yoga pose depending on your level of flexibility, so you can perform it at a level that suits you best.

For example, if you have tight hamstrings, try bending only one knee while keeping both feet on the floor.

This way, you can still get some benefits from this yoga pose without having to completely bend, which may be too much for you.

Still, there’s something you should know about the effect of the downward dog on your hamstrings:

Some people believe that it leads to hamstring tightness and adds stress to your hamstrings if you don’t do it correctly.

So, to avoid this from happening, you should focus on doing the downward dog pose correctly.

The proper way to do it is by keeping your hips high and preventing your back from curving. And remember: if you are doing downward dog correctly, then it’s actually good for strengthening your hamstrings.

3) Glutes/buttocks muscles

Glutes are muscles that people always try to focus on, no matter what.

And that’s not just because they help you look healthy and beautiful, but mainly because they are extremely important for maintaining your body in good shape.

They are the main muscles responsible for supporting and controlling your body’s movement in general.

You can see them working when you walk or run, but they are also engaged when you stand upright and perform exercises like the downward dog pose.

But what do these muscles do exactly?

Glutes help to extend and flex your hips, as well as rotate them to the side. They also help to bend your knees and straighten your spine.

As you can see, these muscles are very important for controlling the movement of your legs and hips, which is why it’s so important to keep them strong if you want to be healthy.

And guess what?

The downward dog pose is great for strengthening those glutes because it targets them directly. The way it does this is by stretching them out and building strength in them.

But that’s not all. The downward dog pose also helps to improve your posture and increases your overall flexibility.

In fact, this yoga pose can stretch your glutes and buttocks and help you open up the back of your legs.

The same applies to your buttock muscles.

In addition to that, the downward dog pose also helps to strengthen your legs and stretch your hamstrings.

So, as you can see, this pose offers a lot of useful benefits for your glutes and buttocks. Therefore, if you have problems with your posture, then the downward dog pose is just what you need.

It will help you get rid of those problems and restore a proper alignment of your spine by stretching out the muscles in your lower back.

4) Calves muscles (lower leg muscles)

Did you know that doing the downward dog can also benefit your calves’ muscles?

This group of muscles is also known as the gastrocnemius or lower leg muscles.

These are the muscles located on the back of the lower legs that are being stretched and strengthened in the downward dog pose.

If you’ve been doing the downward dog pose regularly, then you should know that it’s also good for strengthening your calves.

As a matter of fact, a downward dog can help you target your calf muscles more than any other leg exercise because it stretches them out completely.

This yoga pose is great for building strength in those calves because it stretches them out completely and increases blood circulation in them.

The result?

Stronger calves and better posture.

But what if your calves hurt while you’re performing the downward pose?

That’s something that happened to me when I first added this position to my cooldown routine after heavy workouts.

Well, you should know that tight calves are a common problem for many people who perform downward dog. The reason is that tight calves determine how flexible your ankles are.

But when they’re tight, you might struggle to touch the floor with your heels while performing this position.

What’s the solution?

You can instead move your hands closer to your feet. That way, you can avoid injuring your back and maximize the benefits of the downward dog pose.

5) Hip flexors and groin area muscles (adductors)

The flexor muscles of the feet are indeed some of the most important muscles in the body, right?

They help us keep our balance and prevent us from falling over. If you want to improve your balance, then strengthening these muscles is a must.

Well, the downward dog pose is also great for stretching out your groin area muscles.

These are the muscles located in the inner thighs that get stretched and strengthened in this position.

The hip flexor muscles are located on the front of your hips, while the groin area muscles (adductors) are located on the inside of your thighs.

The downward dog pose is the best way to strengthen your flexor muscles because it puts them into a stretched position.

The result? They get stretched out and become stronger.

What about the groin area muscles?

They are, however, essential for good posture and a strong back. That’s why it’s important to stretch them out regularly as well.

The downward dog pose is perfect for doing so because it stretches out your groin area completely. It’s also one of the best yoga poses for strengthening your hip muscles!

But how do these two muscle groups relate to the downward dog pose?

Well, it’s simple: they are the ones that allow you to perform this stretch comfortably and with ease! The hip flexors allow you to bring your legs closer to your body while stretching them back at a 90-degree angle.

The groin area muscles allow your thighs to spread out and increase the stretch in your groin area.

This pose is also great for stretching out your lower back, which is a common problem for many people. The reason is that it often tends to curve inward too much, which can cause pain and discomfort in the long run.

Therefore, the downward dog pose is also great for stretching out your hip flexors.

And guess what?

If you have any problems with your hip flexors, then you should definitely try the downward dog pose. It can help stretch them out and strengthen them.

The way it does this is by stretching your hip flexors and increasing blood circulation in them.

As a result, those muscles will become stronger and more flexible than ever before. And that’s exactly what you need if you want to be healthy.

6) Biceps and triceps

Believe it or not, the biceps and triceps also take part in the downward dog pose.

Yes, the truth is that the biceps (muscles located on the front of the upper arm) and triceps (muscles located on the back of the upper arm) are worked in this pose as well.

How?

Well, they are the ones that help you balance and keep your body in a straight line during this asana.

The biceps and triceps are located on the front and back of your upper arms. They allow you to bend your arms and raise them above your head.

What’s more, these muscles also help you balance yourself in various positions and maintain a proper posture.

The downward dog pose is an excellent way to do so! It’s one of the best yoga poses for strengthening your biceps and triceps because it puts them in an active position.

As a result, they get stretched out and strengthened at the same time.

The reason why this happens is simple: when you perform this pose, your lower body gets stretched out forward. At the same time, your upper body gets stretched out backward.

It’s like your body is split into two parts that are working in opposite directions.

As a result of this, your biceps and triceps get pulled in opposite directions as well. And that makes them stronger and more flexible than ever before.

7) The quadriceps muscle

Another muscle that is usually used in the downward dog pose is the quadriceps.

And, the truth is that it’s used quite a lot in this pose.

That’s why the downward dog pose is also great for strengthening your quadriceps.

The quadriceps muscle is located at the front of your upper thighs and is responsible for extending your legs. It’s what you use when you walk and run or when you climb stairs, for example. To be more precise, the quadriceps muscle is being engaged as you bend your knees in the downward dog pose.

Besides, it helps keep your knees from buckling inward and outward. And that’s why it also plays an important role in keeping your hips and knees healthy as well as pain-free.

The reason why this muscle is used so much during the downward dog pose is simple: it helps to keep your body straight while performing this asana.

For example, if you don’t have strong quadriceps, you will be forced to work extra hard to keep your body straight during this pose. That way, you will be placing extra strain on your back.

But, if you have strong quadriceps, then you won’t have to use as much force to keep your body straight.

So, as you can see, the downward dog pose is such an excellent exercise for strengthening the quadriceps muscle!

8) Shoulder muscles

If you’ve ever done downward dog, you probably understand how important the shoulder muscles are for this pose.

The shoulder muscles are also being stretched in the downward dog pose.

While most yoga poses involve stretching your arms and shoulders, this one specifically targets your deltoid, trapezius, rhomboid, and biceps muscles.

That’s because the shoulders are used quite a lot in this yoga pose. For example, when performing the downward dog pose, you will be using your shoulders to keep your body straight as well as to lift it off the floor.

And the same applies to your arms.

In fact, the shoulders and arms can both be strengthened and stretched during the downward dog pose.

That’s because the shoulders and arms are also being used to keep your body straight while performing this pose.

So, if you’re looking for a yoga pose that can strengthen and stretch your arms and shoulders, then you should definitely give the downward dog pose a try!

9) Spinal cord and back muscles

Now let’s move on to the spinal cord and back muscles and see how the downward dog pose affects them.

Personally, I find that performing a downward dog is especially beneficial whenever I have back pain and am looking for a remedy.

Your spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that connects your brain to everything below it: from arms and legs to organs like the liver, stomach, and kidneys.

It’s responsible for sending signals from these organs back to the brain so that it can make sure everything is working correctly, which is why it’s so important for maintaining good health.

But what’s more important is that the spinal cord and back muscles are also strengthened during this yoga pose.

For example, your spinal cord and back muscles are used to keep your body straight as well as lift it off the floor.

And that’s not all! The spine is also strengthened during the downward dog pose due to its natural tendency towards extension!

The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae, which have intervertebral discs between them, making it flexible yet sturdy at the same time.

Now, if you bend forward, then these discs are going to be compressed, and that puts a lot of pressure on the spine, which is why it’s so important to keep your spine straight during the downward dog pose.

And that’s great! Because this yoga pose is going to strengthen your spine and relieve back pain.

10) Pectoral muscles

Have you ever heard anything about pectoral muscles?

Well, if you’re wondering what they are, then they’re the muscles that are responsible for moving your upper arms and shoulders.

Pectoral muscles connect the bones of your upper arm and shoulder with the front of your chest. Its basic function is to rotate the arm inward and outward and to elevate the arm.

Now, the pectoral muscles are going to be strengthened in a downward dog yoga pose because they’re used to keep your upper arms parallel to the floor.

The pectoral muscles are also used during this yoga pose as a means of balancing your body weight on your upper arms and shoulders.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t worry if you feel any pain or discomfort in your shoulders or arms when performing this yoga pose.

This is completely normal because you’re using new muscle groups that have never been worked out before.

But if you feel any sharp pains, then stop doing this yoga pose immediately! Instead, try some other poses like the child’s pose or cobra pose for stretching purposes only!

11) Abdominal muscles

Now let’s learn a bit more about the abdominal muscles and how they’re affected by the downward dog pose.

The abdominal muscles are located right below your rib cage, making them responsible for supporting your upper body as well as for providing you with a nice, flat tummy.

They’re also what makes up your “six-pack,”  providing you with a toned look while also making sure that your back is straight and your spine is aligned properly.

Usually, the abdominal muscles are going to be strengthened in a downward dog pose because they’re used as a means of keeping your torso stable during this yoga pose.

These muscles are responsible for regulating internal abdominal pressure, and they’re also used during this yoga pose as a means of balancing your body weight on your upper arms and shoulders.

12) Trapezius muscles

And the final group of muscles that can be used in the downward dog pose is the trapezius muscles.

These are located in the back of your neck, and they’re responsible for making sure that your neck stays stable during this yoga pose.

They’re also what make up your “traps,”  providing you with a toned look while also making sure that your back is straight and your spine is aligned properly.

The trapezius muscles are also used during this yoga pose as a means of balancing your body weight on your upper arms and shoulders, as I already mentioned.

You can use your trapezius muscles to push down and back the scapulae while performing the downward dog position. In this manner, you can draw your shoulders away from your neck and toward the middle line.

Benefits of the downward dog pose for your muscles

After discussing all 12 muscles that are involved in the downward dog pose, it’s time to see how doing this yoga pose can benefit you.

Believe it or not, the downward dog strengthens most of your muscles and makes sure that you have a nice posture.

Let’s dive a bit deeper and see exactly what all the benefits are.

1) Improved posture and alignment of your vertebrae (spine)

One of the main reasons why performing the downward dog pose is beneficial for your spine.

Why?

Because it helps improve the alignment of your vertebrae in general. The reason is that it provides a full-body stretch, increasing your flexibility and mobility.

So, if you perfectly perform the downward dog, it can easily improve your posture and overall health.

2) Strengthens and tones your muscles in the arms, upper back, legs, and core

Another significant benefit of doing the downward dog pose is that it strengthens and tones your muscles in the arms, upper back, legs, and core.

At the same time, it also helps prevent injury.

Your posture will be improved in this yoga pose as well because your body weight will be evenly distributed on all four limbs. And thus your spine is going to be aligned properly.

3) Improves blood circulation in the entire body

Something I’ve clearly felt after starting to regularly do the downward dog pose is that my circulation has improved.

I used to get tired easily after doing this yoga pose, but now I feel more energized and full of energy.

This can be attributed to the fact that it improves blood circulation in the entire body. It’s also because it increases your flexibility, which helps you prevent injury.

Now, whenever I wake up and feel that I require something to fill myself with energy and engage many muscle groups simultaneously, I know exactly what to do.

I go straight to the downward dog pose, where I can stretch all my muscles and get relief from the pain.

4) Promotes flexibility

And finally, the downward dog pose is beneficial for your flexibility.

The reason is that it can stretch your hamstrings and calves.

This pose indeed stretches your muscles and improves the mobility of your joints. This helps you prevent injuries and keep your body healthy. And you can also prevent injuries by practicing this pose regularly.

Final thoughts

All in all, the downward dog pose is a great exercise for you to engage in if you are new to yoga or are looking for a way to improve your health and well-being.

This pose is easy to perform and can be done by almost anyone at any fitness level.

So, if you regularly perform the downward dog pose, you will be able to experience the many benefits it offers, including improved flexibility, muscle tone, and blood circulation.

Moreover, the downward dog pose can help you bring more calmness, energy, and focus into your life while also improving your overall health.

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