Upward Facing Dog Pose challenges you in both strength and flexibility.
There are many opposite directions of energy happening in this pose, meaning that you must find both effort and return throughout the body in a harmonious way. In our normal day-t0-day lives, efforts and returns look like alertness and relaxation, often existing in opposition to each other. But on the mat, we must learn how to inhabit both of these qualities in our bodies.
When balance inhabits one’s body, the pose looks effortlessly fierce and calm.
Updog, as it’s commonly known, will help you open your chest and heart, while simultaneously engaging and strengthening your triceps, upper back, and core. Here are more benefits to this pose:
- Helps reverse the countless hours of sitting and slouching we do all day at our desks.
- Invigorating and effective backbend, without putting strain on the body like other intense backbends. When done correctly, weight is evenly distributed throughout the entire spine, and the back is opening in all directions. This agility in the spine is very helpful in everyday activities, like recreational activities, and picking up your kids.
- Stretches the front body, including the quads, hip flexors, stomach, and chest. This keeps the front and back body balanced, aiding in the reduction of pulling large muscles like your hamstrings or quads.
- Strengthens wrists, which is helpful for the everyday keyboard and phone user, as well as athletes like hockey or tennis players needing to have strong and flexible wrists.
- Opens the chest, sternum, and muscles around the rib cage, which creates space around the lungs. This is advantageous because it will increase your breathe capacity, making you feel like you weight was lifted off your chest.
- Shoulders externally rotated open
- Shoulder blades pressed towards each other, creating a support system in the spine
- Chest is open and proud
- Triceps and forearms are engaged, taking weight out of the wrists
- Hands are grounded and pulling back
- Lower belly is pulled up into backbone, supporting lower spine
- Tailbone is reaching down towards heels, lengthening lower spine
- Hip are lifted off floor, thighs are engaged, and knee caps are lifted off the floor
- Feet are parallel to one another and pointed. Arches of feet hug in and ground down into the floor
- Shoulders rounded forward
- Chest collapses
- Dumping weight into wrists
- Shortened spine
- Slack belly and vulnerable lower back
- Heavy legs
- Open ankles
How to do Upward Facing Dog, Step-by-step
Let’s begin lying face down on the mat with legs parallel to one another, and ankles just a few inches apart. Start on the tops of the feet (arches). Elbows are bent in with hands near your waist, and forearms are perpendicular to the floor.
- Ground hands into the floor, especially knuckles and inner part of hands (first finger and thumb). zed in towards midline, flip the feet so that the tops of your feet (arches) are pressing into the floor.
- Inhale before moving, and on an exhale, straighten the arms.
- Engage thighs and knee caps off the floor, and continue rooting your wrists into the floor down and back, as if you were trying to pull your upper body through your arms. Imagine your arms are two pillars holding and lifting a rising and shining heart.
- Feel the shoulders externally rotate. Shoulders blades on the back body draw towards each other, as a continuation of the externally rotated shoulders. This action creates energy into the thoracic spine, where the back-bending of this pose should be happening. Push the shoulders blades forward, through the chest, then up and out the sternum.
- Lengthen the tailbone down towards your heels, as you continue this circular action up the front body from the pubic bone up the belly. This creates space and length in the lower (lumbar) spine. In those pose, you create the backbend in the thoracic spine, not the lower spine.
- Now you should be in Upward Facing Dog.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds
If you are new to the pose and you are not able to bear the weight on your wrists and arms, here are a few modifications for you to try:
- Place yoga blocks underneath each hand, or
- Keep toes tucked to help elevate the thighs off the floor, until your able to strengthen the legs and arms to do that job instead, or
- Roll a blanket and place it underneath your thighs to help assist in bearing the weight
If you are still experiencing issues with this pose, than begin with Baby Cobra first to help you strengthen the upper back, arms, and wrists, before moving on to Upward Facing Dog.
What will Upward Dog do for your soul?
This is a very grounding pose. When you are grounded, you feel comfortable in your own skin. You know your limits, and you know your strengths. Updog also lifts the heart and head up towards the sky, making you feel proud and strong. The front body is opening and stretching, allowing you to open yourself up to new opportunities and ideas. Helping you get out of mundane routines and cyclic thoughts.