Upward Facing Dog

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Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) allows the body to strengthen and stretch simultaneously. Giving fluidity to movement this beautiful pose is known to yogis and non-yogis alike. It is the final pose that comprises the “vinyasa” that in flow yoga is the staple of its name.

This pose is accessible to all with modification which does not dilute its qualities. The hallmark of Upward Facing Dog is the grounding of the pose which is carried only by the feet and hands. The support however is all core.

Students can find a solace and relaxing component in performing a vinyasa as each and every major muscle group is required through the sequence finally ending in this heart opening revelation to take respite in one’s downward facing dog.

Body Parts Effected: Back, Spine, wrists, forearms, shoulders
Preparatory poses: Cobra pose, Swan Pose, Camel Pose, Standing Backbend
Pose type: Strengthening Backbend
Also known as: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Urdhva = upward, Mukha = facing, Svana = Dog, Asana = Pose)

1. From Plank Pose, make sure that your hands are at shoulders distance. The inner elbow rotating away.
2. Moving from high to low pushup, either roll over the toes from low pushup, or pick up one foot and place the top on the mat and repeat with the other foot. This positions the body correctly into the pose.
3. The tops of your feet should rest on the mat; do not tuck your toes, as this can crunch your spine.
4. The tops of the shoulders roll down, and the chest moves forward through your straight arms. Pull in the lower belly, this will release the low back.
5. Press down firmly through the tops of your feet and hands evenly. Strongly engage your leg muscles to keep your thighs lifted off the floor do not clench your buttocks.
6. Keep your elbows pressed alongside your body. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and lift your chest toward the ceiling.
7. Draw your shoulders back and your heart forward, but do not crunch your neck. If your neck is flexible, tilt your head to gaze toward the sky. Otherwise, keep your head neutral and your gaze directly forward.
8. Your thighs should be firm and turned slightly inward. Your arms should also be firm, slightly turned so that each elbow crease faces forward.
9. Actively press your shoulder blades into your upper back. Keep your elbows hugged in to your sides. Broaden across your collarbones and lift your heart. Glide the tops of your shoulders away from your ears.
10. Distribute the length of the backbend evenly through your entire spine.
11. To exit lower all the way to the mat and return to child’s pose or downward facing dog.

Modifications
1. Upward-Facing Dog provides a deep stretch to the entire spine and front torso, flexibility is built slowly and without force on the body. Dropping completely to the ground and taking cobra pose is an excellent modification.
2. It is not necessary to ‘roll over’ your toes to achieve this pose, simply picking up the foot and replacing on the ground with the top of the foot on the mat or a blanket for padding is an excellent modification.
3. If it is difficult to keep your legs lifted above your mat, roll a firm blanket and place it below your top thighs (or have a friend or teacher place the blanket there while you are in Plank Pose). When you move into Upward-Facing Dog, rest your thighs lightly on the roll.

Notes
a. Always consult your medical professional prior to beginning any exercise program
b. Women who are pregnant should avoid this poise after the first trimester. This is due to the hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy, this pose may overstrain the ligaments in the lower back.
c. If you have wrist injuries or carpel tunnel syndrome drop into cobra pose.
d. If you have any neck injuries, always look forward and slightly tuck the chin to stabilize the neck.

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Jennifer