Upward-Facing Dog or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is one of those common poses that can easily become mundane and unremarkable.
I remember the first time in my practice where I figured out how to be balanced in this pose on just my hands and feet—to hover off the ground as I opened my heart—and in that moment I really appreciated the pose.
Then as my practice continued to unfold, this pose started to lose some of its sparkle in the shadow of other postures. But, I feel that Upward Dog has so much to offer us that I wanted to dedicate a whole post to it, and what it can do for you.
1. Reverse your hunchback.
Upward Dog is a backbending pose, and a great one at that.
In this pose, you have a wonderful opportunity to open your heart, to reverse the forward hunch of your shoulders, and to create space across your chest without needing to have the kind of advanced flexibility or strength that is often required in other backbends.
This backbend is approachable for most bodies, and can be held for a longer period of time than some other, more challenging backbending postures. This combination makes it ideal if you sit at a desk all day, drive a lot, or otherwise spend a lot of time rounding your upper body forward.
2. Stretch your abdomen.
Aside from opening up your chest, this pose also helps bring space to your abdomen.
Opening the core can be super helpful if you’re feeling ‘bogged down’ in your digestion, if you’re feeling tight and sore from other core workouts, or if you just generally feel the strain on your middle and lower back that comes from hunching over all day.
Sometimes you don’t even realize how much your core needs some breathing room until you take it!
In the traditional expression of this pose, you are balancing all of your weight on your hands and tops of your feet—with the rest of your body floating up off of your mat.
If you take a moment to pause and really feel the lightness of this pose, to really feel the ‘floating’ aspect, it can invite a sense of lightness and freedom. This pose is really great if you’re feeling ‘weighed down’ in your body and want to cultivate some lightness.
4. Strengthen your back.
If you’re someone who sits or stands all day, there’s a good chance that your back muscles have become weakened from the continual rounding forward of your chest and shoulders. Upward-Facing Dog is a perfect remedy to this over stretching and therefore weakening.
In this pose, you’ll be flexing all of your back muscles in order to create the backwards arching shape that comes with this pose, and you’ll be using the strength of your back to lift your body off of the ground.
Working your back can be a little bit awkward at times, but Upward-Facing Dog Pose is an elegant way to do just that.
5. Open your heart.
Lastly, this pose is an energetic heart opener. When you practice heart-opening postures, you are literally communicating to your body that you are safe and secure. You may notice that when you are feeling threatened or attacked, that you naturally collapse your chest and hunch your shoulders.
This is a nervous response to stress. When you physically reverse this action, you’ll be communicating to your nervous system that all is well. This heart opening will help decrease stress hormones in the body and make you feel lighter and happier about the world.
Do you find that you’re getting bored with Upward-Facing Dog? Do you think this post will help you cultivate a new appreciation for the pose?