Upward-Facing Dog Pose is excellent for improving flexibility in your back as you learn to open up your chest.
(Pronounced as "OORD-vah moo-kah SHVAHN-AHS-anna ")
The Sanskrit phrase urdhva mukha means "facing upward," and svana means "dog."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
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.
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.
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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