Upward-Facing Dog or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is a active position that awakens upper-body and quad strength, and offers a good stretch for the chest and abdomen and hip flexors. This position may be performed as a solo pose in a yoga sequence, but it is most commonly found link with a series of other positions run in a flow called a vinyasa, such as Sun-Salutations.
Upward facing dog differs slightly from the alternative positions also used in flows such as Cobra Pose (bhujangasana), Sphinx Pose, or Seal Pose (Yin Version). Unlike these other versions of similar spinal extensions aka back-bends, Upward Facing Dog Pose more vigorously activates the muscles to lift further from the ground with straight and powerful arms combined with the press of the feet onto the earth while straightening the legs with engagement in the front of the thighs (quads) to float the hips off of the ground. All of this energy gives more space to reach more deeply into the back-bend. This position offers incredible opportunity to strengthen the back body while opening the front body.
Stretches the chest, shoulders, abdomen, front of the hips, and spine. Strengthens the back, abdominal muscles, arms, and legs.
Modify this pose by coming into cobra pose or seal pose until you’re ready to lift through your legs (keep your legs on the floor and lift through your chest and belly). As you’ll notice, the poses are quite similar aside from the positioning of pelvis. In a vinyasa sequence, there is always the option to swap upward facing dog for cobra pose until you feel ready for a deeper spinal extension. Maintaining engagement in the core muscles of the belly will help to stabilize the lower back as you lift.
Try a challenge to build endurance.
Note: Challenges can be fun, but never force a pose just to hit the time. If you need to exit the pose sooner you can always redo the challenge when you build more strength. Check with a qualified medical professional if you have health concerns. Yoga do not substitute for regular professional check ups with your doctor.
About Chris Loebsack
Boundless Yoga Staff & Students
We are continuously interested on how our reactions and responses to our personal journeys, albeit travel, adventure, new job, etc. mirror and reflect our social, emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We try every day to apply what we learn about ourselves on the yoga mat to our personal lives. Thank you for tuning in as we share some of those aspects with you.