This asana is named Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, literally translated into Upward Facing Dog Pose because it resembles a dog stretching upwards. This asana is known as the cousin of the Bhujangasana or the Cobra Pose because it is quite similar to it. These two backbends are among the easiest yoga backbends and are usually performed as a part of the Surya Namaskar.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
This asana must be performed on an empty stomach. You must have your meals at least four to six hours before you practice yoga. You must also make sure that your bowels are empty. Do not practice Upward-Facing Dog if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or a recent back or wrist injury. Women who are pregnant should also avoid practicing this pose after the first trimester, as it can create too much strain on the round ligaments and lower back. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
How To Do The Chaturanga Dandasana : Step-by-Step Instructions
1. Lie flat on the ground with your belly towards the floor. Your feet must face downwards, and your arms must be placed beside your body.
2. Gently fold your elbows. Place your palms next to your lowest rib.
3. Inhale. Press your hands on the mat as you gently lift your knees, hips, and torso off the mat. Your body weight must be spread across the top of your feet and your palms.
4. Look ahead, slightly tilting your head backward.
5. Make sure that your wrists are in the same line as your shoulders, and that your neck is not over stretched.
6. Hold the pose for a few seconds. Exhale and release.
Upward-Facing Dog can benefit the whole body, when done correctly. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Actively draw your shoulders away from the ears — do not hunch in the pose or collapse into your shoulders. Instead, glide your shoulder blades down toward your tailbone, drawing your side ribs forward. Broaden across your collarbones, press the tops of your shoulders away from your ears, and then lift through your sternum.
- Keep your buttocks firm, but not hard. Instead, actively engage the muscles of your abdomen and back to lengthen and lift through the pose, while also supporting your low back.
- Press firmly down through the tops of your feet, pushing from the backs of your knees all the way through your heels. This will help lighten the pose. As you press through your feet, lift your sternum up and forward.
- There are two main differences to note between Cobra Pose and Upward-Facing Dog:
- In Cobra, your hands are placed under your shoulders before you press up. In Upward Dog, your hands are placed along the lower ribs.
- In Cobra, your pubis (the front of your pelvis) and the top of your thighs maintain contact with the floor. In Upward Dog, both the pelvis and thighs are lifted off the floor.
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 puffing the side ribs forward. If you need help learning this, lift each hand on a block.
Modifications & Variations
Try these simple changes to modify the pose as needed:
- It takes time to build the flexibility and strength needed for Upward-Facing Dog. Practice Cobra Pose as an alternative pose if Upward-Facing Dog is not yet possible for you.
- If your feet and ankles are stiff, it might be difficult to roll over your toes from Chaturanga or into Downward-Facing Dog. Instead, let your thighs come to the floor, then turn your feet over one at a time.
- If it is difficult to keep your legs lifted above your mat, roll a firm blanket and place it below your top thighs (or have a friend or teacher place the blanket there while you are in Plank Pose). When you move into Upward-Facing Dog, rest your thighs lightly on the roll.
Benefits Of The Upward Facing Dog Pose
These are some amazing benefits of the Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.
1. It helps to stretch as well as strengthen the back, thus relieving lower backache.
2. The arms and the wrists are strengthened as the body weight rests on them.
3. This asana helps improve the body posture.
4. The abdominal organs are stimulated. Therefore, digestion is improved.
5. The lungs, shoulders, and chest are stretched, and the buttocks are firmed up.
6. Practicing this asana helps relieve sciatica, depression, and fatigue. It also helps cure asthma.
Practicing Upward-Facing Dog will lengthen and strengthen your entire body. You can use it as a backbend on its own, or as a transition to even deeper backbends. Try a few rounds of Upward-Facing Dog into Downward-Facing Dog [link] throughout your day to energize and rejuvenate your body, and calm your mind. You might discover benefits of the pose that exist even off the mat!