Think about how nice it is to have the sun shining on your face when you look up to the sky on a clear day. To mimic that feeling in a yoga class, you can do upward facing dog. In it’s fullest form, this yoga pose can elicit that same feeling as you inhale and look toward the sky after completing the challenging arm balance, chaturanga, in the Sun Salutation series.
Slightly more demanding than cobra pose, upward facing dog is also an excellent chest-opening backbend that allows you to stretch the front of your body and ease yourself into the realm of more difficult backbends.
How to Do Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Starting in plank, slowly lower down through chaturanga to the floor. Untuck your toes so the tops of the feet are on the mat.
Getting into the pose
Place your hands under you shoulders. Keep your legs straight, and press the tops of your feet into the mat. On an inhale, press into your palms, straighten your arms, and lift your chest up. Keep your legs straight and press into the tops of your feet, lifting the kneecaps and thighs up from the floor.
Shoulders are directly over your wrists. Open your chest and press your shoulder blades down the back to lift the chest higher. Look straight ahead.
Beginner Tips for Upward Facing Dog
- Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists to ensure proper alignment.
- Keep your shoulders pressed down and away from your ears — don’t let them pull up.
Make It Easier:
- Add a block under each hand to give your body more lift off the floor. This will make the pose easier on your shoulders and upper back.
Make It Harder:
- Go deeper into the pose by going further into the backbend: keep your shoulders pressed down and back, stretch your legs straight behind you, and lift your chest further up and back to allow your gaze to turn up to the sky.
Benefits of Upward Facing Dog
This move does double duty in that it both strengthens and stretches your body. It engages your arm muscles as you support yourself by pressing into the floor, and it also activates your leg muscles as you reach them straight behind you. The stretching aspect of the move focuses on the shoulders, chest, hip flexors and abdomen. Because of this,upward facing dog can feel especially good after an intense ab workout.
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