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Upward Facing Dog Pose


Yoga Posture - Upward Facing Dog Pose

Upward Facing Dog is a widely known and popular yoga backbend!

Upward Dog is a powerful posture that will awaken the upper body, help you build strength and provide you with a gentle backbend in preparation for deeper backbends. This pose is normally part of the traditional Sun Salutation sequence in Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga classes and is most often practiced in close connection to its "sister" pose, Downward Facing Dog. Like Down Dog this pose is named after the behavior of a stretching dog after a long nap!

It's common to hear the pose referred to as "Upward Dog", or even just "Up Dog" if you're in a hurry! Many yoga newbies may make the mistake of confusing this pose with Cobra Pose.

The Sanskrit name or translation is Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. The breakdown for the Sanskrit name is as follows, "Urdhva" meaning "Upward", "Mukha" meaning "Face", "Svana" meaning "Dog" and "Asana" meaning "Posture or Pose".

It may appear to be a simple yoga pose, but the posture offers more than its share of alignment tricks and challenges. Despite its seemingly simple nature, this posture is rich with benefits and can help advance your practice and general fitness in a variety of ways.



Benefits Of The Pose:

Although a beginner yoga pose, Upward Dog does offer challenge and of course benefits. Benefits of the pose include strengthening the spine and arms, helping improve posture, and helping to firm and tighten the booty or buttocks. Some yogis have also found that Up Dog can be beneficial for asthma.

By helping to strengthen the upper body and open the chest, this pose can offer a way to improve posture. Practicing good posture can have immense health benefits that reach far beyond our time on the yoga mat.

Even though it's a mild or gentle backbend, the pose still offers many of the powerful benefits of backbends. These benefits can include increasing flexibility in the back, stimulating abdominal organs and potentially having a positive effect on digestion.

Some may find this posture to be empowering as it causes us to lift our head high and open our chest with confidence as we raise ourselves from the mat.

The numerous muscles used by Upward Dog include the shoulders, chest, abdomen, arms, wrists, upper and lower back, spine, thighs and glutes.

Primary Benefits:

Back Flexibility

Improve Posture

Firms The Glutes

Could Aid Digestion

Strengthens The Spine & Arms




Prep & Follow Up Poses:

Cobra Pose and Bridge Pose can act as good prep poses for Upward Facing Dog, these postures also provide gentle backbends.

Good follow up poses can include other backbends or you may want to create balance within the body by off-setting Upward Dog with a good forward fold, such as Standing Forward Bend Pose.

Generally, this posture is considered a good way to warmup the lower back to prepare for deeper yoga backbends, therefore deep backbends would be considered a follow up posture.


Modifications & Cautions:

As with any exercise program make sure to consult with your doctor before implementing the program.

Generally, you should avoid practicing this pose if you have a recent wrist, arm or back injury. You should also make sure that any injuries are completely healed before trying this posture or yoga in general. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also a good reason to stay away from this pose.

If pregnant, avoid the pose after the first trimester. During this time, it's possible to create too much strain on the lower back.

This pose could also strain abdomen injuries and worsen a headache.

If you're having issues lifting your legs off the mat, you could try placing a towel underneath the legs for support. You could also shift some of the weight from your arms to your legs if the arms are struggling to carry all the weight.


Major Tips:

Although a simple pose, there are numerous helpful tips to keep in mind if you're new to this posture.

Make sure to lift your legs off the ground, it's easy in this pose to allow the legs to be lazy and not engage them, the legs should lift from the mat with the tops of your feet resting on the earth.

Keep your shoulders aligned over your wrists, and try not to lean your head back too far to protect the neck from strain.

A common mistake is to allow the shoulders to rise toward the ears and the back to slump. Remember to open the chest by drawing your shoulder blades down your back, pulling the shoulders down and away from the ears. Spread your fingers apart to help create a solid base.

It's easy during Sun Salutations to quickly move though the pose and ignore alignment, take the time to align the body to achieve maximum benefit.

Props are not normally used with this pose, but as mentioned earlier, you may place a towel underneath the legs to help with support if needed.




Step-By-Step Instructions:

There are a variety of ways to enter this pose, today we will enter the posture from lying face-down on the mat.

While lying face-down, extend your legs behind you, with the tops of your feet touching the earth. Your legs should be close together, perhaps a few inches apart but no further.

Your hands should be placed along your side body just beside your mid to lower ribs. Spread your fingers and point them toward the front of the mat. Remember to keep your elbows pulling inward toward your body or torso.

Press your palms into the floor, inhale and slowly begin to straighten your arms, as your upper body begins to lift off the mat also allow your legs to lift a few inches off the ground.

Remember to drop your shoulders down the back, press and open the chest forward with your head held upwards. If comfortable, you can allow your gaze to shift upward and gently lean the head backwards.

Keep your leg muscles engaged while keeping them lifted from the mat.

Try to keep your shoulders from rising upward toward the ears, keep the arms firm but only straighten as far as your body allows without pain or discomfort.

Never strain to attain a deeper backbend in this or any posture.

Hold the pose for a few breaths and then on exhale slowly lower the legs to the earth and drop the torso down to mat resting the forehead on the ground. Allow your arms to rest beside you.