Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Upward Facing Dog Pose

UpwardFacingDog_StephSchwartz

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.

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:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER 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.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Relieves symptoms of mild depression.
  • Energizes body and mind.


Next Article

Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana: Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana (par-ee-VRIT-tah HAS-ta pod-ang-goosh-TAHS-anna) is a balancing posture that asks for flexibility. Use props and modifications to make this challenging posture accessible from right where you are.

Philosophy + Origin

While the name of this pose is straightforward, many yoga teachers call it dancing Shiva, which opens up a whole new perspective for understanding parivrtta hasta padangusthasana. Traditional depictions of Nataraj, or dancing Shiva, show the arms and legs moving fluidly across the body, which is how the shape of this posture earned it its nickname. Shiva’s dance is often referred to as a cosmic dance of bliss, showing the universal cycles of creation and destruction, birth and death. Practicing dancing Shiva is a recognition of these cycles, and improves the ability to find balance and peace in the midst of eternal change.

Read Article

Related Articles

More In Focus

Our unique blend of yoga, meditation, personal transformation, and alternative healing content is designed for those seeking to not just enhance their physical, spiritual, and intellectual capabilities, but to fuse them in the knowledge that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.


Desktop, laptop, tablet, phone devices with Gaia content on screens

Discover what Gaia has to offer.

Get instant access to free videos, helpful articles, and exclusive offers.