Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Upward Facing Dog Pose
Urdhva mukha svanasana (OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna) is a challenging backbend commonly seen as part of the transition series in vinyasa yoga.
Philosophy + Origin
The Mahabharata tells a story about a loyal dog who accompanies Yudhishthira, one of the five Pandava brothers, to the gates of heaven. Lord Indra greets the pair at the gates, but tells Yudhishthira that the dog is not allowed into heaven. Upon hearing this, the brother argues for the sake of the dog, telling Lord Indra of its devotion and loyalty. Yudhishthira says that because the dog has been so loyal to him, he will return that loyalty. At this moment, the dog is revealed to be Dharma, and Yudhisthira and his loyal companion are welcomed joyously into heaven. When practicing upward facing dog, remind yourself of the loyalty and dedication you have to your practice and showing up each day in your life. Persistence is always rewarded.
- Place your hands on blocks to create more space in the body.
- Look straight ahead rather than lifting the gaze.
- Place a rolled blanket under the thighs for lift and support.
- Begin lying on your belly with legs extended behind you, tops of your feet on the ground. Place your hands on your mat just behind your shoulders, close to your torso.
- Press your feet firmly into the ground to engage your legs.
- Reach your chest forward and up, then press into your palms to continue lifting the chest and head.
- Straighten your arms and continue to press into the tops of your feet. If your hips stay on the ground, bend your elbows to accommodate.
- Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your gaze forward.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths then release back to the ground or to downward facing dog.
- Downward facing dog | Adho mukha svanasana
- Dancers pose | Natarajasana
- Upward facing bow pose | Urdhva dhanurasana
- Urdhva = upward
- Mukha = face
- Svana = dog
- Asana = pose
- Expands your chest and shoulders.
- Strengthens the musculature of your shoulder blades, hip flexors and core.
- Strengthens your lower back, arms and wrists.
- Relieves symptoms of mild depression.
- Energizes body and mind.
Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose
Bhujangasana (boo-jang-GAHS-anna) is a great way to strengthen the upper back and is often practiced as part of a transition back to downward-facing dog in vinyasa yoga. Practicing cobra pose regularly can improve your lung capacity, reduce stress, and stimulate many of the internal organs in your body.
Philosophy + Origin
Although often perceived as evil or dangerous, snakes also have a rich history of power and worship. In some yoga traditions, the energy of kundalini is represented by a serpent resting coiled at the base of the spine. By awakening this snake, we enliven our body’s energy and create a pathway towards enlightenment. This connection with enlightenment is also seen in many portrayals of the Buddha where he is shown with a cobra over his head.
- Option to swap cobra pose for sphinx pose by placing your forearms on the floor.
- Lengthen the back of the neck to avoid straining the neck and upper back.
- If you experience discomfort in the lower back, bend the elbows more.