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Yoga Alignment: Upward Facing Dog or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

In this posture the chest is expanded, increasing lungs capacity and efficiency of breathing, helping to treat respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis for example. It increases mobility of the lower spine and so releasing mild back pain. But it is very contraindicated for acute back pain due to slipped or herniated discs. If that’s not the case it can be used to strengthen the back, arms and shoulders. It also increases blood supply to lower abdomen, thyroid, adrenal and kidneys. This is a very energising posture and it can be used to lift your mood!

Let’s not confuse this posture with Cobra Pose, it might look very similar but they are different postures. In Upward Facing Dog the knees and legs are off the ground, therefore making this posture a bit more challenging. The legs and buttocks are active giving support to the lower back. Hands press onto the ground lifting yourself up, the shoulders are away from the ears and the chest open. In the full posture you lift your gaze up towards the ceiling, but if you’re experiencing neck pain then better to avoid this.

It’s crucial for your lower back that your buttocks are very active, squeeze them as if you were to press the pubic bone down to the ground. As we did in Downward Facing Dog spread the fingers wide on the mat with the middle finger slightly pointing outwards to create more space in the chest area. And please do NOT collapse into your shoulders, if this posture feels too challenging for you try Cobra or Baby Cobra instead. I see the below often in class and I cannot emphasise enough how bad this is for your joints.

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