Definition - What does Svanasana mean?

Svanasana is a chest-opening asana that is one of the most fundamental poses in the many schools of yoga. The name is derived from the Sanskrit svana, meaning “dog,” and asana, meaning “posture” or “pose.”

From a hands-and-knees tabletop position, the belly sinks toward the ground, creating an arch in the back, and the head lifts as the gaze is directed upward. Svanasana is usually paired with marjaryasana, in which the core muscles are pulled in toward the spine as the back rounds.

Svanasana is also known in English as dog tilt pose or cow pose (bitilasana).

Yogapedia explains Svanasana

Although a simple pose, svanasana requires precise body positioning. The knees should be directly under the hips and the hands should be directly under the shoulders. On an inhale, the sitting bones and sternum are lifted toward the sky as the belly sinks. As the back arches, the head curls gently toward the ceiling.

Svanasana is believed to reduce stress by calming the mind, especially when paired with marjaryasana. By releasing back tension, svanasana opens the anahata (heart) chakra, stimulating self-love, loving-kindness to others and unconditional love. The asana also offers these additional benefits:

  • Stretches the hips and low to middle back
  • Stretches the neck and front of the torso
  • Strengthens the core muscles
  • Lengthens the spine
  • Stimulates internal organs, especially the kidneys and adrenal glands

To protect the knees, one may kneel on a folded blanket. Anyone with a neck injury should keep the head in line with the torso, rather than lift the gaze upward.

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