Upward Facing Dog Pose: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
- Expands your chest and shoulders.
- Strengthens the muscles that control your shoulder blades.
- Stretches your hip flexors and core musculature.
- Strengthens your low back musculature.
- Relieves some forms of low back pain.
- Therapeutic for asthma sufferers as it opens your accessory muscles of breathing.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or tendonitis of the wrist
- Low Back pain aggravated by extension
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna)
urdhva mukha = face upward, svana = dog
- Lie on your stomach with the tops of your feet on the floor. Place your hands beside your rib cage with fingers spread wide, finger tips below the line of the chest.
- Press into your hands, feeling the ball joints of your fingers (under the knuckles) in contact with the mat. Squeeze your elbows by your side, roll the shoulders onto the back body, and reach out through the top of your head.
- Draw your low belly in towards the spine, and create a slight inward rotation of the thighs, and press the toenails into the mat.
- On an inhale, press into your palms, imagining you are sliding your body along the earth. Lift your torso and hips off the mat, so that it is only the tops of your feet and your palms are in contact with the earth.
- Tuck your chin in slightly, lengthening the top of your neck near the skull, and reach out through the top of your head but keep your gaze down your nose.
- Imagine the back bend coming from your heart centre, sending the sternum forward, while keeping the drawing in of the low belly.
- Breathe comfortably in and out or transition to your next pose.
- Avoid rolling in the tops of your arms bones or shrugging, both of which can lead to impingement of the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. Instead, squeeze your elbows close to your side, rolling the shoulders onto your back body so that you are broad across the collarbone and send the shoulder blades down the back, increasing the expansion of your chest and the space for the neck. You should not feel any pinching sensations in your shoulders.
- If you are experiencing wrist pain, ensure a broad and open connection with the shoulders (as above). Distribute the weight evenly into your hands and all five fingers, avoiding compression at the wrist itself. The wrists should be stacked under or slightly in front of your shoulders.
- If you are experiencing low back pain, instead of focusing on the action of extension or back bending, think more about length through your spine, reaching out through the top of your head to grow longer. Draw your low belly in to support the low back. Connect all 10 toenails to the earth, pressing your feet into the floor. You can also use a block between your thighs to squeeze and activate the adductor muscles of the groin, often relieving pressure in the low back. Avoid gripping through the buttocks, but allow a gentle contraction.
- If you have neck pain, keep the head level and look straight forward.
For additional readings on Upward Facing Dog:
Asana Anatomy-Upward Facing Dog
Yoga Pose Article written by Dr. Robin Armstrong:
Dr. Robin Armstrong is a Vancouver chiropractor and yoga instructor. Robin blends her western knowledge gained from her experience as a chiropractor, with the ancient eastern knowledge passed through generations of yoga teachers. Robin’s classes emphasize safety, breath, alignment, and movement, while teaching students ways to strengthen and lengthen their bodies to handle the stresses of our modern lifestyle. If you are coming to her as a patient, expect to be prescribed yoga! Learn more about Dr. Armstrong at www.stayactive.ca