Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) is a dynamic posture that strengthens the upper body while still stretching the shoulders and belly. It’s perhaps one of the most popular poses in regular yoga flow repetition, so doing it correctly is much more critical to avoid damage. Even seasoned students should check in together with the shape in crucial yoga positions every now and then.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (OORD-vuh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-nuh) is a practice mode which enlarges and improves the backbone, torso, and limbs. It is derived from four Sanskrit words:
“Urdhva” means “upward”
“Mukha” means “face”
“Svana” is a word that means “dog.”
“Asana” means “pose” in Sanskrit.
Upward-Facing Dog (as well known as “Upward Dog” or simply “Up Dog”) is a key component of Stretching Exercises and is often performed in Bikram, Pranayamas, and Power Yoga. It can be used to increase power and as a precursor to stronger backbends.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: How-to-Do Steps
Start by lying forehead on the ground and your legs placed a few more centimeters apart behind you. The base of your legs should lie mostly on a mat; may not wrap your toes in the floor, as this will cause your backbone to crunch.
Position your hands on the ground beside your rib cage, alongside your body. Grab your elbows tight to your ribcage and aim your toes at the edge of the floor.
Breathe as you tightly dig your palms into the ground. Flatten your limbs and raise your torso and feet off the ground a few centimeters.
Strongly press hard on the tips of the feet. Put your legs pulled off the floor by firmly engaging your leg muscles.
Maintain a parallel relationship between your elbows and your body. Raise the chest towards the sky and lower your head towards the ears.
Draw your head back and your core forward, just don’t let your neck crunch. Turn your head towards the ceiling if your neck is flexible. Otherwise, maintain a balanced head position and a straight ahead gaze.
Your legs should be rigid and inwardly turned. The arms will still be firm and gently bent upward, with the creases of each elbow facing forward.
Flatten your arms almost as much as your body would allow. When the work progresses, deepen the stretch while not straining to reach a tighter backbend.
Activate the neck and shoulders by pressing them against your upper back. Maintain a tight grip on your sides with your elbows. Raise your heart and broaden your collarbones. Move your shoulders back and away from your face. The length of the backbend should be uniformly distributed over your whole spine.
Maintain the position for up to 30 seconds. Breathe as you drop your torso and forehead to the floor to detach. Rotate your head to the right, your left ear resting on the floor. Arms should be relaxed. Repetition of the pose is allowed up to five times.
Variations & Modifications
The whole backbone and the front body are stretched deeply in an Upward-Facing Dog. Avoid forcing the body into the stance in order to get a smoother backbend. Rather, take it gently and ease up if you experience any discomfort or pinching. To correct the pose as desired, try these excellent examples:
Building the versatility and power necessary for an Upward-Facing Dog requires patience. If Upward-Facing Dog is still not realistic for you, try Cobra Pose as an option.
It could be hard to carry over the toes from Chaturanga or into Downward-Facing Dog if your knees and legs are rigid. Allow your thighs to touch the ground before turning your feet over one at a time.
If lifting your legs above your mattress proves challenging, roll a solid mattress and position it under your upper thighs. Place your thighs gently on the roll as your transition into an Upward-Facing Dog takes place.
Upward-Facing Dog’s Most Common Obstacles
There’s good news: Simply concentrating on a few main alignment signals will get the entire body back into balance.
There’s bad news: A mismatch with one portion of the anatomy will often cause a domino effect in the position.
The most common issue with Upward-Facing Dog is that the shoulders do not rise up toward the head. If you balance your weight on your wrists rather than squeezing through your hands to build duration, you may feel a rise.
Trying to engage and raise the legs is yet another key challenge in this posture. The kneecaps and pelvis fall and lie on the floor if you don’t dig onto the top of your feet and engage your thighs. So, be a little more careful and mindful during practice.
Benefits of Upward-Facing Dog
Upward-Facing is a term used to describe a person who is facing upward. This pose strengthens the wrists, arms, and shoulders while stretching the chest and neck. It strengthens balance, which can be beneficial for asthma by relaxing and raising the upper body and chest. The Upward Dog stretches the back, body and belly, stimulating the abdominal organs and digestive health. It also helps to ease sciatica by firming the buttocks and thighs.
If you already have a repetitive strain injury or a new back or wrist injury, avoid doing Upward-Facing Dog. Pregnant women should stop doing this pose after the first pregnancy because it puts so much pressure on the circular ligaments and lower spine. Still stay inside your own capabilities and boundaries. If you have any physical concerns, seek medical care before practising yoga.
When handled right, the Upward-Facing Dog will be beneficial to the entire body. When performing this posture, remember to keep details in mind:
Do not hunch in the posture or fold onto your shoulders, actively pull your shoulders back from the neck. Rather, pull the side ribs forward towards gliding your shoulder blades forward into your tailbone. Expand your collarbones, and raise your sternum by pressing the edges of your shoulders away from the ears.
Maintain a tight, but not too so, buttocks. Rather, extend the length and elevate your body through the posture by vigorously engaging your abdominal and back muscles, while still protecting your low back.
Strongly press it down from the tips of the feet, reaching all of the way from your shoes from the backs of your knees. This will aid to ease the posture. Push your sternum up and down as you press with your feet.
Both Cobra Pose and Upward-Facing Dog, there are two major variations to be aware of
- Until you push up in Cobra, your hands are folded under your shoulders. But, your hands are located around the rib cage in Upward Dog.
- Your pubis (the front of your pelvis) as well as the top of your thighs stay in touch with the ground while you’re doing Cobra. Whereas, both the pelvis and the thighs are raised from the ground in Upward Dog.
Upward-Facing Dog is an excellent way to lengthen and strengthen the entire body. It can be used as a stand-alone backbend or as a path to even deeper backbends. During the day, attempt a couple of sessions of Upward-Facing Dog or Downward-Facing Dog to energise and revitalise the body while still calming the mind. You may learn that the posture has effects and benefits beyond the mat!