Pronunciation: OORD-vuh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-uh-nuh
Pose Type: Back Bend Pose
Upward Facing Dog, or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, is one of the most common yoga poses partly due to the highly recognized benefits and therapuetic uses. A cousin of Cobra pose, Downward Facing Dog is considered one of the easier back bend poses and is often performed during a yoga sequence such as Sun Salutations.
In this pose, it is important to press down through the hands while lifting the top of the head to lengthen the back and neck without unnecessary pushing. To relieve pressure on the lower back, press the tailbone down with a slight tucking movement and look straight forward to keep a neutral neck and chin and avoid stiffening around the throat area.
This pose is usually practiced within a sequence like the Sun Salutation. We’re going to isolate the steps of the pose beginning from a face-down lying position:
- Start by lying down on your mat, face down with your legs extended out behind you, with the tops of your feet resting on the mat.
- Place your hands next to your body by your lower ribs, pointing the fingers toward the top of the mat and hugging your elbows in close to your ribs.
- On an inhale, press through your hands firmly and straighten your arms, lifting your torso (and perhaps your upper legs) off the floor.
- Align your shoulders over your wrists and straighten your arms, pressing firmly on the tops of your feet and engaging the leg muscles.
- Pull your shoulders away from your ears and lift your heart toward the sky.
- Keep your gaze forward or slightly upward but do not crunch your neck.
- Actively press your shoulder blades together and into your upper back, keeping your elbows hugged into your sides.
- Distribute the length of the backbend evenly along your entire spine.
To release from the pose, exhale and slowly lower your torso and forehead back onto the mat. If this is a resting time in your practice, turn your head to rest one ear on the mat and relax your arms alongside your body. For those practicing Sun Salutations, you may move directly from Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog by lifting your hips and rolling your toes over to press the soles of the feet into the mat.
Benefits of Upward Facing Dog Pose
The benefits of this pose include:
- Chest and spine opening
- Strengthens the wrists, arms and shoulders
- Improves posture
- Stimulates the abdominal organs
- Firms the buttocks and thighs, helping relieve sciatica
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana energizes and rejuvenates the body, providing relief from fatigue and mild depression while creating suppleness in the back torso.