A few weeks ago, we analyzed the many components parts of downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). This week, we will be taking a look at the counter-pose, upward facing dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). Other postures in our series include Crescent Pose and Warrior 2 pose, all of which are foundational postures for your yoga practice.
Upward Facing Dog is a posture you will visit frequently in your sun salutations. It is a warming and relaxing pose, and there are numerous benefits to this slight backbend. Physically it strengthens the spine, arms, and wrists, while simultaneously stretching the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. It also helps to improve posture (no more slouching!) Energetically, this pose can help relieve mild depression, fatigue and sciatica. As always, listen to your body and back out of the pose if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort.
Begin by laying down on your belly, lift the left leg up and stretch it back, resting the top of the left foot on the floor. Repeat with the right leg and foot, stretching the leg as far back as you can and creating more space. Bend your elbows and and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are close to perpendicular to the floor.
Inhale and really press through the palms (especially the index finger and forefinger) to begin to lift your chest up. Straighten your arms and continue lifting your torso up and allow your thighs to lift a few inches off the ground while pushing down into the tops of your feet. Keep your thighs firm and turned slightly inward. Your arms should be strong and hugging into your side body, elbow creases facing forward. Keep a slight bend in the elbows so you do not hyper-extending your elbows.
Press the tailbone toward the pubis. This will help the pubis to lift towards the navel and take compression out of the back. Relax your buttocks (we tend to squeeze them to help lift the thighs off the floor). I repeat , relax your buttocks!
Now bring attention to your shoulders. Relax the shoulder blades away from the ears and lift the sternum. Soften the rib cage and look straight ahead or up slightly if it feels comfortable for your neck.
If you are practicing this as part of a Sun Salutation, the next step is to release back to the floor or lift into downward facing dog on an exhalation. You can practice this pose by itself, holding anywhere from 15-30 seconds. Release on an exhale, turning your cheek to the mat and relaxing for a few breaths.
This pose is made even more wonderful when practicing in the middle of the forest. (Photo taken at Wa’ahila Ridge courtesy of Micheal Keany)
Thanks for joining me on this asana journey! I look forward to our next pose and more mat time. Namaste.