Ūrdhva mukha śvānāsana - Upward Facing Dog
Follow your inner teacher
Upward Facing Dog (Urdvha Mukha Svanasana) is one of the poses in a traditional Sun Salutation sequence. As such, this pose is often only held for a breath or two in a typical flowing practice, and is often neglected as a pose, despite its many benefits.
Like loyal dogs, we yogis return to our practice day after day, again and again. Dogs love routine, making them excellent role models for us. Something in us is drawn to love and follow our inner teacher, as the unknown dog followed Yudishthira. Can you bring those qualities of loyalty, love, and persistence to your practice of upward facing dog?
- Begin by lying face-down on the mat. Place the hands on the floor alongside the body, next to the lower ribs with fingers pointing to the top of the mat.
- Inhale as you press through the hands firmly into the floor. Straighten the arms, lifting the torso and the legs a few inches off the floor.
- We can also enter the pose by starting in Plank pose, then lowering into Chaturanga. From Chaturanga, draw the body forward by pressing through the palms and rolling over the toes. Align the shoulders directly over the wrists and straighten the arms.
- Press down firmly through the tops of the feet. Strongly engage the leg muscles to keep the thighs lifted off the floor.
- Keep the elbows pressed alongside the body. Drop the shoulders away from ears ears and lift your chest toward the ceiling.
- Draw the shoulders back and the heart forward. Keeping the neck long, tilt the head to gaze toward the sky. Otherwise, keep your head neutral and your gaze directly forward.
- Distribute the length of the backbend evenly through the entire spine,
- Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds. To release, exhale as you slowly lower the torso and forehead to the mat.
If you feel any pressure or pain in the low back, try squeezing a block between your thighs to keep your quadriceps engaged and activate the adductor muscles of the groin.
If you experience any wrist pain in this pose, ensure that you distribute your weight evenly across your hands and press down through the tops of your feet.
- Improves posture.
- Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists.
- Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen.
- Firms the buttocks.
- Stimulates abdominal organs.
- Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica.
- Therapeutic for asthma.
- Avoid this pose if you have injuries to your neck, wrists, shoulders, or low back, or if you have recently had surgery involving your abdomen or back. Save it for later if you are in your second or third trimester of pregnancy. Skip it if you have a headache.