Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog)

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

Benefits

• Improves posture
• Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists
• Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
• Firms the buttocks
• Stimulates abdominal organs
• Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica
• Therapeutic for asthma

Contraindications/Cautions

• Back injury
• Carpal tunnel syndrome
• Headache
• Pregnancy

Step by Step

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Press the tailbone toward the pubis (tucking the tailbone) and lift the pubis toward the navel. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks, activating the ashwini bandha.

4. Firm the shoulder blades against the back and expand the rib cage out to the sides. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid dropping the rib cage, which strains the lower back. Keep the abdominal muscles engaged to support 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.

5. 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.

Modifications: 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.

Beginner’s Tip: 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 expanding the side ribs. 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.

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