Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Upward Facing Dog Pose

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Urdhva mukha svanasana (OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna) is also a challenging backbend commonly seen as part of 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.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • 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.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. 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.
  2. Press your feet firmly into the ground to engage your legs.
  3. Reach your chest forward and up, then press into your palms to continue lifting the chest and head.
  4. 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.
  5. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your gaze forward.
  6. Hold for 3-5 breaths then release back to the ground or to downward facing dog.

PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Urdhva = upward
  • Mukha = face
  • Svana = dog
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Expands your chest and shoulders.
  • Strengthens the musculature of your shoulder blades, hip flexors and core.
  • Strengthens your lower back, arms and wrists.
  • Improves posture.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Relieves mild depression.
  • Energizes body and mind.

MANTRA:

“Om Namah Shivaya”

Often interpreted to mean “I honor the divinity within myself,” chanting this mantra mentally or aloud can help boost your confidence and self-esteem, giving you the mental capacity to continue showing up in your life and in your practice.

MUDRA: Surya Prana

Also known as the vital energy mudra, this hand gesture empowers body and mind and helps activate the internal fire. To practice, reach your arms out from the heart so that your hands are level with your eyes and ears. Turn the palms to face each other, elbows bent so that the upper arms are parallel with the floor.

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