Upward-Facing Dog
ŪRDHVA MUKHA ŚVĀNĀSANA (ऊर्ध्व मुख श्वानासन)
(OORD-vah MOO-kah Shva-NAAH-sah-nah)

 


‘Ūrdhva’= upward, ‘Mukha’= face, Śvāsa’= dog, ‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Upward Dog
Up Dog

Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pose Type: Back-Bend / Prone / Stretch

1. Lay on your belly in prone position or Reverse Corpse (Advasana), with your legs close together (but not touching), and parallel, arms by your sides, palms and feet face down, and your forehead on the mat.
2. Bring your hands under your shoulders, palms flat, and fingers spread out. Keeping your arms perpendicular and your elbows hugging your sides, push down through your palms, straightening (not locking) your arms, and slowly start arching your back. Continue to lift and arch your back until your chest, abdomen, pelvis, and thighs are lifted off the mat. Be sure not to hyperextend your elbows.
3. Engage your upper back and shoulder muscles to keep your shoulders and shoulder blades back and down. Open your chest, lengthen down the shoulder blades, and bring your head up.
4. Gaze forward, keeping your throat soft and the back of the neck long. Engage your quadriceps and firm the buttocks to keep the chest through pelvis off the floor. Your calf muscles may lift off the mat slightly as well. Pull your hips toward your wrists.
5. Hold for several breaths and then release back into a prone position or Reverse Corpse (Advasana).

Common Adjustments
• Elbows pushed out away from the body
• Elbows locked
• All weight on the wrists
• Neck strained
• Shoulders hunched by the ears
• Chest collapsed
• Pinching or compression in the lower back (lumbar)
• Legs too far apart
• Hips sagging
• Hips tilting forward

Modifications
• Students with too much stress in their backs can bend their elbows more to relieve some of the pressure on the lower back. They can also walk their hands out farther or rest their knees and pelvis on the mat.
• For students with wrist injuries or discomfort, either elevate their wrists with a blanket, folded mat, or bolster, or have them go down to their forearms and onto a block.
• Students with tight ankles can place a blanket, folded mat, or bolster under the fronts of the ankles.
• If there is too much pressure on the lower abdomen and hips, place a blanket or pillow under the pelvis and abdomen for support. They can also practice Cobra (Bhujangasana) or Baby Cobra (Ardha Bhujangasana) to build strength.
• To stretch and strengthen the back and gain balance, place a sturdy stool or chair in front of the student and up against a wall. Have them place their hands on the top of the stool or chair for support. Alternatively, they can place their hands on blocks.
• Starting from the second trimester and on, pregnant students should do Cat and Cow Pose (Durga-Go) so they do not put undue stress on the abdomen and fetus.
• Advanced students can try lifting their feet to touch their head or they can tuck their toes under and lift the legs higher off the floor. This energizes the legs. Alternatively, they can arch their neck farther back.
• Advanced students can also lift their thighs higher off the floor. If this is challenging at first, place a pillow, blanket, or folded mat under the thighs.

Counter Poses
• Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
• Wide Child’s Pose (Prasarita Balasana)
• Child’s Pose (Balasana)
• Cat (Marjaryasana)
• Corpse (Savasana) or Reverse Corpse (Advasana)
• Knees to Chest (Apanasana)
• Hero (Virasana) or Supine Hero (Supta Virasana)

Anatomy
• Neck• Shoulders (Posterior Deltoids)
• Chest (Pectoralis Major)• Biceps and Triceps
• Abdomen• Lower (Lumbar), Middle (Thoracic), and Upper (Cervical) Back and Spine
• Hips (Iliopsoas and Psoas Major and Minor)• Gluteus Maximus
• Quadriceps and Hamstrings• Shins and Calf muscles

Benefits
• Strengthens and stretches the neck, shoulders, chest, spine, back, abdomen, hips, glutes, quadriceps, triceps, shins, calf muscles, and ankles.
• Relieves backache, discomfort from sciatica or herniated disks, and neck pain. This improves overall back and neck health.
• Increases body heat and blood circulation. This also calms the nervous system and relieves tension, stress, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, migraines, and menstrual discomfort.
• Improves posture / alignment, increases flexibility and improves the spine’s range of motion.
• Supports and improves digestion, stimulates appetite, massages the organs, and relieves flatulence and constipation through pressure within the abdomen. It also helps with gynecological disorders.
• Opens the chest, neck, throat, and shoulders. This strengthens the lungs and improves lung capacity, which helps with asthma or respiratory problems.
• Benefits the liver and kidneys as well as stimulates the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, and the pineal gland in the Endocrine System.
• Stimulates the Lymphatic system.

Contraindications
1. Students with severe asthma, severe back injuries, spinal injury, slipped disc, neck injury, spondylitis, have had abdominal surgery, or are pregnant should avoid this pose due to pressure on the lower abdomen, back and neck.
2. Students with headaches, arm injury, or shoulder injury should avoid this pose.
3. Students with wrist injury or carpal tunnel syndrome, ulcers and other stomach disorders should avoid practicing this pose without modification, guidance, and support.

Chakras
Chakra One:Root or Muladhara (root support) Chakra. This is the survival and gravity chakra. Its goals are stability, grounding, prosperity, right livelihood, and physical health. Its location is the base of the spine, coccygeal plexus, legs, feet, and large intestines.
Chakra TwoSacral or Svadhisthana (sweetness) Chakra. This is the chakra for emotion, sexuality, and attraction of opposites. Its goals are fluidity, pleasure, and relaxation. Its location is the abdomen, genitals, lower back, and hips.
Chakra Three:Solar Plexus, Self-Power, or Manipura (lustrous gem) Chakra. This is the combustion, power, and energy chakra. Its goals are vitality, strength of will, and purpose. Its location is the solar plexus.
Chakra Four:Heart, Love, or Anahata (Unstuck) Chakra. This is the love and equilibrium chakra. Its goals are balance, compassion, and acceptance. Its location is the heart.
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – Supine and Prone Postures as “Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana – Upward-Facing Dog”.
    • Watch the Chapter 9 video “Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthew, this posture can be found in Chapter 13 – ARM SUPPORT POSES as “URHDVA MUKHA SVANASANA – Upward-Facing Dog Pose”.

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