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 in and of itself — despite its many benefits.
Focusing on bringing more attention and alignment to my Upward-Facing Dog transformed my practice and my teaching by encouraging me to lead from the heart. Celebrate some self-love for Valentine’s Day by working on opening your heart in Upward-Facing Dog!
Benefits Of Upward-Facing Pose
Upward-Facing Dog stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen, and strengthens the wrists, arms and spine. The practice of opening up through the chest can help you find the feeling of keeping the chest open in any standing or seated pose, and even encourage better posture while sitting at a desk in front of a computer.
Backbending poses such as Upward Dog can also stimulate the abdominal organs and relieve mild depression, fatigue and sciatica.
Upward-Facing Dog Pose Step-By-Step:
- Begin lying on your belly with your legs extended straight back behind you and the tops of your feet relaxed down on the mat, hip distance apart.
- Plant your palms beside your ribs so that your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees and your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor.
- On an inhale, press firmly into your palms and straighten your arms, lifting your torso, hips, and the tops of your thighs up off the ground. The shoulders should be stacked directly over the wrists and the creases of the elbows should face forward.
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears, then begin to roll your shoulders back and find the action of pulling your chest forward through your upper arms. Keep the chin in line with the floor or lifted slightly, avoiding the urge to crank the head back in order to send the gaze up to the ceiling (which can compress the back of the neck).
- Continue to refine the pose by firming your thighs and upper outer arms and drawing your low belly in toward your spine. Remain for 5-10 deep breaths before transitioning to Downward-Facing Dog or lowering back down onto the belly.
- The key action of the pose is to find the stretch along the upper spine rather than jamming in to the low back. Focus on lengthening the spine and reaching out through the crown of the head, rolling the shoulders back and sending the chest forward. Ensure that the thighs are actively lifting rather than dropping down toward the ground.
- 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.