Upward Facing Dog: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Illustration by Nik Garvoille

Upward Facing Dog is the counter pose to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) or vice versa, both of which primarily manipulate the spine, increasing flexibility and strength.

Begin by assuming a prone position with your forehead on the mat. Move your feet to hip width, toes pointed. Take your hands close to your lowest ribs so that your wrists are at a right angle to the floor. Press into the knuckles at the base of your fingers, fingers spread wide and active with the middle finger pointing forward. Further establish your foundation by pressing into the tops of your feet so that your kneecaps are off the floor, the backs of your knees lifting towards the ceiling. Root your pubic bone to the mat by pressing your hips into the floor, lengthening the lower back. Have the sense that your tailbone (coccyx) is extending towards your heels. The “gluts” are active but not clenched.

Inhaling deeply, press simultaneously into your hands and the tops of your feet, straighten the arms, and lift the heart, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Shoulders are directly over wrists. Release and stretch the belly while moving the shoulders down. Scapulae (shoulder blades) are pressing in and up, supporting the front of the body. Move your thoracic spine behind your heart deeply into your back. Gaze softly up and back. With an exhale release back to the mat, turn your head to the side, and soften the backside of your body. Repeat if you wish.

The benefits of Upward Facing Dog are tremendous, increasing the strength and flexibility of the spine, arms, and back, while breaking up tension in the hard to reach middle back, as well as in your shoulders.

Marcia K. Hoebreckx, CYT, has taught classes in Door County during spring/summer/fall for five years and returns next spring to the East Conference Room in the Birchwood Lodge in Sister Bay. She is available by appointment for private instruction in Door County and Milwaukee. For more information email [email protected] or call 920.854.5239 or 414.247.1925.