Enhance your Yoga Class with 59 easy-to-hard Modifications for Downward Facing Dog Pose
Greetings, my lovely Yogis, Yoginis, and Yoga teachers. I’m George Watts, a BWY yoga teacher and creator of the online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner.
If you’re a yoga teacher, it’s time to get down with the Downward-facing Dog! This pose is so popular that it’s practically the Scooby Doo of yoga. But don’t let it become stale like a day-old biscuit – learn all the modifications you can to keep things fresh and exciting for your students.
I love Downward-facing Dog pose so much that I had an overwhelming urge to create the “I love Down Dog to the Moon and Back” doodle painting that you see above.
Next up, download my Yoga lesson plan with 30 variations of the Downward-facing dog pose.
Free Yoga Lesson Plan With 30 of the 59 Modifications For Downward-facing Dog Pose
Here is my free Yoga lesson plan with 30 variations of the Downward-facing dog pose. I created it using the Online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner.
Next up, is a free Downward Facing Dog yoga class handout.
Free Downward Facing Dog Pose Class Handout (Wall Art, Poster) To Give To Your Students
Below is a doodle art I created for the Downward Facing Dog pose. Please feel free to download, print and give to your students as a handout.
Next up, a lot of modifications.
59 Ways to Modify Downward Facing Dog Pose To Get Your Student’s Tails Wagging With Excitement
Here are 59 ways to modify the Downward-facing Dog pose:
Modification 1: Use Blocks (or a chair)
If you have tight hamstrings or a limited range of motion, place a block or a chair under your hands to bring the floor closer to you.
Modification 2: Bend Your Knees
If you have tight hamstrings or lower back pain, bend your knees slightly to take some pressure off your lower back.
Modification 3: Walk Your Feet Forward Or Back
Adjust the distance between your hands and feet to create more or less space in the pose.
Modification 4: Take A Wider Stance
If you have tight hips, take a wider stance with your feet to allow more space for your pelvis to rotate.
Modification 5: Shift Your Weight Forward
To strengthen your arms and shoulders, shift your weight forward into your hands, keeping your hips high.
Modification 6: Lift one leg
To challenge your balance and core strength, lift one leg off the ground and hold for a few breaths before switching sides.
Modification 7: Lower Your Knees
If you have wrist pain or are unable to hold your body weight in your hands, lower your knees to the ground and perform the pose from there.
Modification 8: Use A Wall
Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Walk your feet back until your body is in an L-shape. This will mimic Downward-Facing Dog pose and take the weight off of your wrists.
Modification 9: Hold Onto A Strap
If you have tight shoulders or are unable to reach the ground with your hands, hold onto a strap to help lengthen your spine and open your chest.
Modification 10: Perform The Pose With A Partner
Have a partner hold your hips and gently pull them back to help you lengthen your spine and deepen the stretch.
Modification 11: Yoga Wedge Under Hands
A yoga wedge is a tool that can be placed under your hands to help reduce wrist pain. It elevates your wrists, which reduces the angle of extension and makes the pose more comfortable.
Modification 13: Blanket Under Hands
Fold a blanket and place it under your hands during the Downward-Facing Dog pose. This will provide cushioning for your wrists and make the pose more comfortable.
Modification 14: Towel Under Wrists
Roll up a towel and place it under your wrists during the Downward-Facing Dog pose. This can provide extra cushioning and support for your wrists.
Modification 15: Hare Pose
Do a Hare pose. Begin in a kneeling position with palms resting on thighs, then lift the arms up overhead. Slowly hinge forward from the hips, placing the hands and forehead on the floor in front of the knees with bent elbows, holding the pose before raising the arms and returning to the starting position.
Modification 16: Walk Your Hands Forward
Walk your hands forward and bring your feet closer together for a shorter stance or farther apart for a longer stance.
Modification 17: Block Squeeze
Place a block between your thighs and squeeze to engage your inner thighs.
Modification 18: Down Dog Lunge
Do a Down Dog Lunge pose. Bring one foot forward and place it between your hands for a lunge variation.
Modification 19: Go Single-legged
Lift one leg up towards the ceiling for a single-legged Downward Dog.
Modification 20: Down Dog Twist Version I
Lift one arm up towards the ceiling for a twisted Downward Dog.
Modification 21: Down Dog Twist Version II
Take your right hand to your left ankle or your left hand to your right ankle.
Modification 22: Revolved Down Dog
Do a Revolved Downward Facing Dog. From Downward Facing Dog, lift the left hand and reach it under the torso to the right thigh. Place the hand outside the right foot, gaze up and twist, then release and return to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Modification 23: Knees Bent, Heels Up
Bend your knees and lift your heels off the ground.
Modification 24: Extended Pppy Pose
Lower your knees to the ground for an Extended Puppy pose variation.
Modification 25: Add A Side plank
Walk your hands towards your right foot and pivot on your left foot for a side plank variation.
Modification 26: Dolphin Pose
Bring your elbows to the ground for a dolphin pose variation.
Modification 27: Dolphin Pose With A Strap
Bring your elbows to the ground for a dolphin pose with a strap variation. Make a small loop on the strap. Slide strap onto arms (like putting on a shirt). Make sure you can feel the tension in the strap. Come onto forearms. Engage core. Spread fingers wide. Pull the strap away (feel the triceps and biceps engaged). Come into Dolphin by raising your hips.
Modification 28: Dolphin Pose With A Strap + Leg Raise
Same as modification 27, but with a leg raised.
Modification 29: Blanket Under Knees
Place a blanket under your knees for added cushioning and support.
Modification 30: Challenging Balance
Lift one arm and the opposite leg up towards the ceiling for a challenging balance variation.
Modification 31: Hamstring Stretch
Press your hands into the ground and lift your hips up and back for a more intense stretch in your hamstrings.
Modification 32: Bolster Under Heels
Place a rolled-up blanket or bolster under your heels to elevate them and relieve tension in your calves.
Modification 33: Full Forward fold
Take your hands to your ankles and lift your hips up and back for a full forward fold.
Modification 34: Forward Fold With Knees Bent I
Stand in Mountain. Stretch arms overhead. Bend knees and bring hands to the floor in front of feet. Look forward. Engage Core.
Modification 35: Forward Fold With Knees Bent II
Stand in Mountain. Knees hip-width apart and very bent. Fold at the waist grasping opposite elbows. Let the head hang. Hold.
Modification 36: Prostration Pose
Do a Prosration pose (Naman Pranamasana). Starting in the Hero pose (Vajrasana), bend forward and hold onto the lower calves, placing the crown of the head on the floor. Raise the buttocks until the thighs are vertical, gently press the chin against the chest and hold the pose.
Modification 37: Crouching Cat
Do a Crouching Cat pose. Come onto hands and knees. Bring knees hip-width apart. Palms directly under shoulders. Fingers facing forward. Gaze down. Flat back. Press into palms to drop shoulders away from ears. Raise up keeping legs bent. Spread legs wide apart. Look forward.
Modification 38: Wide-legged Forward Bend A
Do a Wide leg forward bend pose. Start in Mountain pose. Widen legs. Place hands on hips. Fold forward from hips into Forward Bend. Release the torso down on exhale. Hands to the floor. Walk feet wider apart. Release head. Lengthen legs on inhale. Release the torso on exhale. To release bring hands to hips and lift up.
Modification 39: Wide-legged Forward Bend B
Do a Wide leg forward bend B pose. Start in Mountain pose. Widen legs. Place hands on hips. Fold forward from hips. Release the torso down into a Forward Bend on an exhale. Keep hands on the waist. Dig fingertips into Upward Abdominal Lock (Uddiyana Bandha). Walk feet wider apart. Release head. Lengthen your legs on each inhale. Release the torso on each exhale.
Modification 40: Wide-legged Forward Bend C
Do a Wide leg forward bend C pose. Start in Mountain pose. Widen legs. Stretch your arms out and clasp your hands behind you. Fold forward from hips. Release the torso down into a Forward Bend on an exhale. Keep hands on the waist. Dig fingertips into Upward Abdominal Lock (Uddiyana Bandha). Walk feet wider apart. Release head. Lengthen your legs on each inhale. Release the torso on each exhale.
Modification 41: Wide-legged Forward Bend D
Do a Wide leg forward bend D pose. Start in Mountain pose. Widen legs. Place hands on hips. Fold forward from hips. Release the torso down into a Forward Bend on an exhale. Wrap fingers around big toes. Inhale, and bring your head up while holding onto big toes. Exhale, and bring your head to the floor. Repeat.
Modification 42: Standing Fold Arm Lock
Do a Standing Fold Arm Lock pose. Stand in Mountain pose. Stretch arms overhead. Bend knees slightly. Fold forward from waste. Interlock fingers. Bring arms behind your back. The back of the neck is soft. Hold. Release.
Modification 43: Down Dog Pedal
Do a Down Dog Pedal pose. Come into Downward Facing Dog. Come up onto toes. Exhale, lower right heel to the mat. Inhale, raise up onto toes. Exhale, lower left heel. Repeat.
Modification 44: Down Dog Knee To Nose
Do a Down Dog Knee To Nose pose. Come into Downward Facing Dog. Raise right leg up and bring knee to nose. Repeat on the other side.
Modification 45: Down Dog Split
Do a Down Dog Split pose. From Downward Facing Dog, raise the right leg and extend through the heel and crown of the head. Open the right hip, bend the knee and hold. Straighten the leg and release, repeating on the left.
Modification 46: Intense Side Stretch I
Do an Intense Side Stretch I pose. From Mountain Pose, step feet wide and turn your left foot 45 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel, rotate the torso to right and lean forward over the right leg. Press fingertips to the floor and bring the front torso close to the thigh. Repeat on the left side.
Modification 47: Intense Side Stretch II
Do an Intense Side Stretch II pose. From Mountain Pose, step feet wide and turn your left foot 45 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel, rotate the torso to right and lean forward over the right leg. Bring hands behind the back and bring the front torso close to the thigh. Repeat on the left side.
Modification 48: Intense Side Stretch III
Do an Intense Side Stretch III pose. From Mountain Pose, step feet wide and turn your left foot 45 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel, rotate the torso to right and lean forward over the right leg. Press the fingertips of the right hand to the floor and bring the left arm behind the back. Repeat on the left side.
Modification 49: Bound Triangle
Do a Bound Triangle pose. Stand tall, legs wide apart. Bend front knee, reach left arm under left leg, right arm around to clasp fingers of the left hand. Open chest, lengthen forward leg into Triangle. Switch sides.
Modification 50: Humble Warrior
Do a Humble Warrior pose. From Warrior I, interlace hands behind in a double fist. Lean forward, placing your head close to the ground. Lift arms overhead, and hold for several breaths. Rise up. Repeat on the other side.
Modification 51: Half Monkey
Do a Half Monkey pose. From Downward Dog, step right foot forward, lower left knee down. Straighten your right leg, fold over it, and hold. Repeat on the left.
Modification 52: Tripod Headstand Preparation
Do a Tripod Headstand Preparation pose. Perform a forward fold to place the head on the floor, then lift onto the toes and engage the core muscles while keeping the legs extended.
Modification 53: Headstand Preparation
Do a Headstand Preparation pose. Kneel and place the crown of your head on the mat. Interlock fingers, lift knees and walk toes toward elbows. Hug upper arms, engage the core, and bend one knee. Switch sides.
Modification 54: Headstand Against Wall
Do a Headstand Against Wall pose. Come to Downward Dog. Place legs on the wall one at a time. Walk feet up until parallel to the ground. Toes point down. Hands under shoulders. Hold. Release by bending your knees and walking down.
Modification 55: Bound Headstand Against Wall
Do a Bound Headstand Against Wall pose. Come to Downward Dog. Place legs on the wall one at a time. Walk feet up until parallel to the ground. Toes point down. Hands under shoulders. Hold. Release by bending your knees and walking down.
Modification 56: Down Dog Lunge Partner
Do a Down Dog Lunge Partner pose. Partner A in Downward Dog. Partner B places their right foot under Partner A’s head, coming into Lunge or Squat Pose and applies pressure to Partner A’s lower back.
Modification 58: Double Dog Partner
Do a Double Dog Partner pose. Partner A in Downward Dog. Partner B’s feet are on A’s hips and their hands are on the mat in front of A’s hands.
Next up, is my conclusion.
Well, that’s 59 ways to modify Downward Facing Dog Pose. You’ll never be stuck for another modification for the rest of your yoga teaching career 🙂
Hey, you might like this article I wrote called: 21 Yoga Poses For Your Spine: 101 Ways To Improve Spinal Health.
And oh yes, I almost forgot…
My free Yoga Pose Directory has over 3000 yoga poses. So, if you want to find even more downward-facing dog modifications, go for it. I ran out of steam by the 59th modification, though I could have easily found lots more in the Pose Directory.
If you like creating yoga class themes, like this one, you’ll want to look at my blog post 101 Perfect Poses For A Peak Pose-Themed Yoga Lesson Plan.
If you want to streamline your yoga lesson planning process, check out my online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner.
And if you’ve read all the way down to here, you might as well get your paws on 37 of my free Yoga lesson plans.
Get Your Yogic Hands On 37 Of My Free Yoga Lesson Plans
Below are 37 free downloadable yoga lesson plans that I’ve created for my own yoga classes using the Online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner. Feel free to use them for your own yoga classes, or as inspiration to come up with your own yoga class themes.