Upward Facing Dog Pose Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Begin from plank pose. Line up the palms just slightly wider than shoulder distance apart, fingers spread wide on the mat, with the index finger facing forward. The heels line up over the toes and the body is in a strong long line.
Inhale to simultaneously roll over the toes to press the tops of the feet into the ground and press the sternum forward to extend the upper spine. Lift the eyes and chest up. Press the shoulders back and energize up from the palms of the hands.
This posture can be used as part of a flow through sun salutations or held on its own for several breaths. To come out, shift the weight back to plank, tucking the toes under again. Press back to Down Dog or lower through Chaturanga Dandasana to release to the floor.
*This posture can also be started from the floor, with the hands lined up at the chest, pressing the chest up and out and lifting the pelvis and legs away from the floor.
Visualization CommentsUp dog does require a lot of strength to execute without strain of struggle. That being said, it is a heart opening posture, and as such, it’s important to invite students to break out of their shell and shine out to the world, even if it only happens briefly while flowing into the next posture. Students could envision an elaborately jewelled necklace draped at the throat that they are trying to show to someone standing in front of them. Spread the collarbones wide and lift up the sternum, shining out!
Technical CommentsIn this posture it’s important to maintain energy in the lower half of the body to avoid sagging in the pelvis and collapsing in the wrists. To do this, as you roll over the tops of the feet, imagine you are trying to pull the mat towards you. This will engage the muscles along the top of the foot and ankle. The mat may even pull up a little from the strength of this pull. Then firm the legs, pressing the hamstrings towards the ceiling. Finally, bring energy to the lower belly by drawing the tail under slightly and lifting the pubic bone towards the belly button. Create continuity through the torso by keeping a connection between the top of the hipbones and the bottom of the ribcage. Think of this happening 3 dimensionally around the torso so that the lower back does not do all the work. The extension should initiate from the upper back and the posture should be felt there and not in the lumbar. Bring awareness to the palms, and keep the tips of the fingers and knuckles at the base of the finger joints pressing firmly into the ground. Especially notice the index finger wanting to pop up. Keep the arms straight but the elbow joints soft. Draw the shoulders back and lift the chest towards the ceiling. Lift the throat up without straining the back of the neck (think no wrinkles on the back of the neck) and bring the gaze or drishti to the 3rd eye. Breath into the upper thorax.
- Strengthens the back, legs, shoulders, arms and abdominals
- Opens the whole front of the body, including chest and shoulders
- Energizing and heart opening
Watch Out For:
- Sagging in the pelvis and an anterior pelvic tilt (pelvis tipping forward)
- Ankles collapsing
- De-energized legs- this makes the pelvis sag
- Extension in lumbar spine only with ribs popping
- Elbows locked and weight in wrists
- Head out of alignment- lifting the chin up and pressing the head forward
- Be careful with students with lower- back issues, and shoulder problems.
- Avoid if experiencing carpel tunnel syndrome and use caution with wrist and elbow problems
- Avoid if pregnant
- Perform with the knees on the ground for more support for abdominals and upper body
- Keep the toes tucked under to help the legs to energize more and create more stability
- Perform mini cobra from the floor, leaving the legs on the ground instead and lifting the upper chest only (this is especially helpful while flowing quickly)
- Place blocks under the wrists to find more extension in a tight thoracic spine
- Roll the edge of the mat or use a wedge under the palms to decrease the angle of the wrist extension.