Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna) is a powerful pose that awakens upper-body strength and offers a wonderful stretch for the chest and abdomen. The name comes from the Sanskrit words ūrdhva meaning “up”, mukha meaning “face”, śvān meaning “dog”.

In Upward-Facing Dog, the most common challenge is keeping the shoulders from creeping up toward the ears. This happens when we rest weight in the wrists.
To avoid this, anchor down into the first finger knuckle of your hands, keeping the forearms rooted like stable pillars to lift the chest out of. Push the floor away to lift the spine up through the crown of the head. At the same time, isometrically pull your hands towards your feet.

Another key challenge in this pose is engaging and lifting the legs. If you don’t press into the tops of the feet and engage the legs, the kneecaps and pelvis sag and rest on the mat. Lifting the uppermost part of the thighs, deep in the hip socket, creates space for the sacrum to slide away from the lumbar spine to prevent potential low-back compression.

Pose type:

• Improves posture
• Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists
• Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders and abdomen
• Firms the buttocks
• Stimulates abdominal organs
• Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica
• Therapeutic for asthma

Preparatory Poses:
Cobra; Bridge

Follow-up Poses:
Backbends; Twists

• There’s a tendency in this pose to “hang” on the shoulders, which lifts them up toward the ears and “turtles” the neck. Actively draw the shoulders away from the ears by lengthening down along the back armpits, pulling the shoulder blades toward the tailbone, and puffing the side ribs forward. If you need help learning this, lift each hand on a block.
• Common postural errors during this asana include overarching the neck and lower back. One recommendation is to keep the gaze directed down at the floor and focus on bringing movement into the area between the shoulder blades

Variations & Cautions:
• To increase the strength and lightness of this pose, push from the backs of your knees along the calves and out through the heels. The tops of your feet will press more firmly against the floor; as they do, lift the top sternum up and forward.
• Avoid this pose if you have a back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome or are pregnant.
• It takes time to build the flexibility and strength needed for Upward-Facing Dog. Practice Cobra Pose as an alternative pose if Upward-Facing Dog is not yet possible for you.

As with all postures, I encourage you to listen to your body and honor where you are mentally, physically and emotionally each day. The pose will be there again tomorrow… practice in such a way that you can be too!

Hollye and the SGY Teaching Team

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“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort. It’s choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy. It’s choosing to practice your values rather than simply professing them.”
~ Breneé Brown

Categories: PoM

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