Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing and teaching yoga for life.

Upward Facing Dog Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions


Upward-Facing Dog Pose is excellent for improving flexibility in your back as you learn to open up your chest.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Partnering

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

(Pronounced as "OORD-vah moo-kah SHVAHN-AHS-anna ")

The Sanskrit phrase urdhva mukha means "facing upward," and svana means "dog."

How to do Upward-Facing Dog Pose

Step One

Lie face down on your yoga mat. Position your feet about one foot apart from each other. Let the top of your feet maintain contact with the floor so that your toes point behind you. Put the palms of your hands on the mat by the sides of your waist with the fingertips pointing forward. Spread your fingers.

Step Two

Breathe in as you push your hands down onto the floor to lift your head and your torso up off the ground. Straighten your arms completely. Look up at the sky and expand your chest. Straighten your legs and keep your knees off of the floor.

Step Three

Keep your thighs engaged and tuck your tailbone deep into your pelvis as you arch your back. The entire weight of your body should rest on your hands and the tops of your feet only. Your arms should be perpendicular to the floor.

Step Four

Lengthen your spine up fully all the way from your pelvis. Push the chest forward and tuck your shoulder blades deeply into your back to help maintain the lift of the chest. If you have chronic neck pain, then you can look straight ahead rather than tilting your head back to look up.

Step Five

Hold this posture for about 30 seconds. As you gain more practice with it in the future, you'll be able to maintain the posture for up to a minute or so while breathing deeply. To come out of the pose, bend your elbows and slowly release your torso back down to the floor. During the Sun Salutation sequence, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana comes immediately after Adho Much Svanasana, and you would follow it with Caturanga Dandasana.

Beginner's Tip:

Make sure that you push the shoulders down so that they don't crunch up around your neck. If you focus on making your hands more active in pressing down into the floor, that will help you lift your chest enough to keep your shoulders down in the proper place. You can support each hand with a yoga block underneath if you need help getting your shoulders away from your neck in this posture.

Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Pose Level:

Level 1

Contraindications and Cautions:

  1. Inflammation in the back muscles, shoulders, wrists or arms
  2. Menstruation
  3. For pregnancy: Generally, it's not advisable for pregnant women. Seek the direct guidance of an experienced yoga instructor.

Modifications and Props:

If it is too difficult for you to keep your legs up off of the floor in this posture, then roll a yoga blanket and place it underneath the tops of your thighs. When you come up into the posture, let your thighs rest on the yoga blanket and focus on pressing the tailbone toward the blanket support.

Deepen the Pose:

Practice coming into this pose from Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog Pose. After you push your weight down and back through your heels in Adho Mukha Svanasana, you then shift your weight fully forward and pull your torso up as the pelvis descends. In this movement, you will have the sensation of pulling your pelvis forward between your wrists, which gives you added momentum to lift and curl your back more.

Benefits:

  • Corrects a slouching posture
  • Therapeutic aid for sciatica, slipped discs and lumbago
  • Build strength in the back
  • Relieves backaches
  • Boosts blood circulation to the reproductive organs
  • Tones the arms

Partnering:

Ask a partner to help you get the extra opening of your shoulders that you need. They should stand behind you. When you come into the full pose, they should grab your shoulders from behind and push your shoulder blades in with their thumbs while pulling the outer edges of your shoulders back with the rest of their fingers.

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