Upward Facing Dog - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana 
(Upward-Facing Dog Pose)

(OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna) 
urdhva mukha = face upward (urdhva = upward
mukha = face) 
svana = dog

This yoga posture shares similarities with Cobra Yoga Pose, toning and strengthening the entire length of the body to lift off of the mat. Keep the bellybutton pulled in to reduce lower back strain. Upward Facing Dog Yoga Pose awakens the front meridian of the body.


Benefits


Improves posture 

Firms the buttocks 

Stimulates abdominal organs 

Strengthens the entire length of the body: spine, arms, wrists and chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen.

Contraindications/Cautions


Back injury 

Carpal tunnel syndrome 

Headache 

Pregnancy 

Performing the Asana


Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor. 

Inhale and press your inner hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forward along the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation. Keep the thighs firm and slightly turned inward, the arms firm and turned out so the elbow creases face forward. 

Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don't harden the buttocks. 

Firm the shoulder blades against the back and puff the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Look straight ahead or tip the head back slightly, but take care not to compress the back of the neck and harden the throat. 

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is one of the positions in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually, holding it anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor or lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana with an exhalation. 

Anatomical Focus


Core/ Hips/ Thighs

Back and Spine

Top Line of the Legs

Backs of the Arms

Therapeutic Applications


Depression

Fatigue

Sciatica 

Asthma 

Proper Alignment

Nervous System 

Kidneys

Modify Your Practice


Often it's difficult to keep the legs strongly suspended above the floor. Before you move into the pose, position a thick blanket roll below your top thighs. When you are in the pose, lightly rest your thighs on this roll as you press the tailbone closer to the roll. 

You may also perform this pose from the toes for a less strenuous stretch.

Complimentary Poses


Bhujangasana - Cobra Pose 
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Bridge Asana 
Baddha Konasana - Bound Angle Posture
Bhekasana - Frog Posture
Balasana - Child's Pose

Tips for Beginners


There's a tendency in this pose to "hang" on the shoulders, which lifts them up toward the ears and "turtles" the neck. Actively draw the shoulders away from the ears by lengthening down along the back armpits, pulling the shoulder blades toward the tailbone, and puffing the side ribs forward. If you need help learning this, lift each hand on a block. 

Deepen the Pose


To increase the strength and lightness of this pose, push from the backs of your knees along the calves and out through the heels. The tops of your feet will press more firmly against the floor; as they do, lift the top sternum up and forward. 

Partner Practice


A partner can help you learn about the lift of the chest in this pose. Come into position with a strap looped around your back torso (across the shoulder blades) and under the armpits. Have your partner sit in front of you, a foot or so away, and grip and pull the ends of the strap, while at the same time pressing his/her feet lightly against the fronts of your shoulders. Release the heads of the upper arm bones away from this pressure as you dig the shoulder blades into the back, away from the strap.