Asana Anatomy - Upward Facing Dog
By Dr. Robin Armstrong • June 5th, 2008 • 9216 Views
Our animal friends are a wonderful study in the fluidity of yoga. It is no coincidence that when a dog wakes from a nap, he can be seen moving slowly through upward facing dog and downward facing dog and casually walk away satisfied. The family pet makes Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, or upward facing dog pose, look simple, and we can embody this ease when we too practice the pose.
Let's dissect this asana.
Working from the ground up.
In most cases we move into upward facing dog as part of a vinyasa sequence, coming from chaturanga, but for ease we will start from the floor. Lying on our stomach, uncurl the toes and allow the tops of the feet to come in contact with the floor. Spread the toes and feel all five toenails in contact with the floor. This subtle engagement triggers an active lengthening into the tibialis anterior muscles of the shin, and up into the adductor muscles of the inner groin, and hip flexor group at the front of the thighs.
Place your hands, fingers spread wide, close into your rib cage, below the nipple line. Next comes the most magnificent part of upward dog, preparing for the heart opening benefits of the back bend. Although our entire spine will be coming into extension – from our cervical to our lumbar spines – the majority of the back bend comes from our thoracic spines. Due to the relationship between the shoulder blades and the thoracic spine, it is important to co-ordinate the efforts between these two areas of our anatomy. Roll the shoulders open, so that the pectoralis muscles of the chest become stretched, and the rhomboid muscles between the shoulder blades and the spine become active, gently moving the shoulder blades towards each other.