Improve Flexibility with Upward-Facing Dog Pose - Sweatbox

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, aka Upward-Facing Dog Pose, is a classic yoga pose which plays a significant role in the Surya Namaskar sequence. Practising Upward-Facing Dog, a back-bending yoga posture, expands your heart, lifts your head, and enhances your posture. All these physical actions can help you fight fatigue and depressive moods.

It’s important to avoid straining your lower back when practising Urdhva Mukha Svanasana or Upward-Facing Dog Pose. You can do this by placing all your weight on the palms of your hands and the tops of your feet while keeping the yoga pose.

Align your wrists under your shoulders and bring your shoulder blades back. This will open your chest to protect your lower back and wrists. Before performing Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, it’s necessary to warm up your body. In yoga classes, your yoga teacher will usually ask you to perform preparatory poses, such as Baby Cobra Pose, to warm up your entire body. This yoga pose helps soothe your upper back and back muscles.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana or Upward-Facing Dog Pose – Basic Things You Need to Know About

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana comes from the Sanskrit words ūrdhva, meaning up; mukha, meaning face; and śvān, meaning dog.

Upward-Facing Dog Pose is a deep backbend yoga pose that targets the core. This Upward Dog yoga pose soothes back pain and boosts energy. This is a good yoga pose to perform after sitting for a prolonged period. Additionally, Upward-Facing Dog Pose corrects the spine’s abnormal curvature that leads to kyphosis and slouching.

Upward-Facing Dog has many benefits, especially when done as part of a regular yoga practice, which includes the following:

  • Upward-Facing Dog builds up your upper body and strengthens your upper back, lower back, arms, shoulders, elbows, shoulder blades, upper and lower spine, and wrists.

  • As a yoga pose, Upward-Facing Dog makes you feel more confident.

  • It improves your spinal alignment, leading to a better body posture.

  • Upward-Facing Dog helps you deal with fatigue and stress.

  • This yoga pose stimulates your internal organs and abdominal organs.

  • Upward-Facing Dog brings your chest forward, opening your chest, abdominal muscles, and shoulders.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Do the Upward-Facing Dog Yoga Pose

For beginners, it will help to enrol under certified yoga teachers in Singapore to get the steps done right. Your yoga teacher can also modify the yoga pose to suit your flexibility and fitness levels.

  1. Lie with your stomach on the yoga mat. Place your hands close to your ribs. Keep your elbows tucked at the sides and your fingers pointing up.

  2. Engage your knees and thighs as you push the tops of your feet into the mat. As you do, ensure your tailbone is pointing to your heels.

  3. Take a few breaths, then breathe in. Make your arms straight while you push your feet and hands to the mat. Lift your legs and chest off the yoga mat.

  4. Continue with your deep breaths, knit your lower ribs and focus the strain on your lower belly.

  5. Lift your breastbone by drawing your shoulder blades to your back.

  6. Breathe in and out while keeping your gaze straight on the ceiling.

  7. Keep the pose for up to five breaths before making your last exhale before coming out of the yoga pose. Slowly lower your body to the mat and lift until you’re in a Downward Facing Dog Pose.

What Beginners Must Know About Upward-Facing Dog Pose

Here are some tips you must remember to make this yoga pose more beneficial and easier to follow:

  • To avoid hanging in this yoga pose, actively press from the palms and pull your shoulders back from your ears.

  • As you move your shoulder blades toward the tailbone, actively draw the chest forward through the arms.

  • Keep your legs active and moving while making sure your knees are elevated.

  • Prepare your whole body for the yoga pose by starting with the Cobra Pose. Listen to your body, and transition into Upward Facing Dog when ready.

  • Give your neck a deep stretch by keeping your gaze upward.

Ways to Modify Upward-Facing Dog Yoga Pose

You will learn about modifying the pose to suit your fitness levels when practising yoga. For example, you would want to add more challenges to a vinyasa yoga pose for starters when you have gotten good with the practice.

Here are the common variations of the Upward-Facing Dog:

Upward-Facing Dog With Blankets and Knees Down

Put a folded blanket or two beneath your hip points to give your body some padding.

Upward-Facing Dog with Knees Down

Practice this position with your knees and thighs on the ground if elevating your legs feels difficult for you.

Upward-Facing Dog on a Chair

Put a chair against a wall or on a sticky mat so that it is secure. Stand in front of the chair and press your hands firmly on its seat. Press your hands harder on the seat. While you are in an inclined plank position, step your feet back. To make a smooth curve down the length of your spine, press your hips forward, arch your back, and face forward or slightly upward. Take a few deep breaths and then move your feet back toward the chair.

Upward-Facing Dog with Palms Holding Blocks

In this yoga pose, you will place props under your palms. In this case, you will use blocks. Instead of pressing your palms to the floor, you will press them to the blocks. This is easier for beginners who still require props to sustain their balance, flexibility, and strength.

More About the Preparatory Pose

Upward-Facing Dog is a heart opener yoga pose. However, some practitioners, especially beginners, find it difficult or painful. In this case, give yourself time and perform Cobra Pose longer or until your body is ready to transition.

Cobra Pose is excellent for stretching your hip flexors, chest muscles, and spine. Since a sedentary lifestyle can result in tightness and soreness in these areas, stretching the hip flexors and extending the spine is particularly helpful for persons who spend a lot of time sitting. You may ease some of this stiffness by including this yoga pose in your practice.

The pose is particularly beneficial for building up your triceps and biceps. It entails holding up your body while bending your elbow just enough to stimulate these arm muscles.

The other advantages of this preparatory pose include its capacity to alleviate mental tension. It is also a relatively simple pose, which anyone can do.

Final Thoughts

Yoga benefits your whole form and poses, including Upward-Facing Dog, making it stronger and more energized. The Up Dog pose makes more space for the body to improve and muscles to grow. It keeps the legs active while preventing wrist injury.

It benefits your whole body, from your head, neck, chest, elbows, inner thighs, outer thighs, legs and feet, to your thoracic spine, cervical spine, lumbar spine, hip flexors, front torso, and more.

However, you must perform the yoga pose right to benefit from the practice. If you’re in Singapore, Sweatbox Yoga offers yoga classes led by certified yoga instructors. It’s a top-class yoga studio with complete equipment and the perfect ambience to make you work harder to get healthier and fitter.

About the Author​

Lynette is fully dedicated to the support and empowerment of the growing community of committed yoga students and teachers. As one of the Lead Instructors for Yoga Teacher Training, she is here to share tips on how to grow your profile as a yoga teacher or build a yoga business either physically or digitally.