Urdhvamukhasvan Asana, Upward Facing Dog  for Lower Back

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

Urdhva  –  Upward

Mukha  –  Face

Svan –  Dog

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

or Upward facing dog,

is one of the most common poses

among Yoga asanas,

especially the Vinayasa or flow style of Yoga.

This is so because it comes across as a perfect transition pose between standing and lying poses:  to some extent having the characteristics of both. Contrarily it is also one of the most difficult poses to understand, figure out the nuances of the alignments involved.  It can be a real challenge for the beginners to get the vital points activated in the right manner for Urdhva Mukha Svan Asana, but once absorbed it can be a wonderful pose for getting the feel of one’s strength. Always follow proper guidelines required to be adhered to for doing any yoga asana

Preparatory Postures for Urdhvamukhasvan Asana

  • Bhujangasana
  • Setubandhasarvangasana

How to do Urdhvamukhsvan Asana

Urdhvamukhsvan asana
  1. Lie down on your belly, forehead touching the mat, feet are kept together with their tops resting on the mat,  place the palms with fingers spread out near the waist keeping the forearms perpendicular to the mat
  2. Take a deep inhalation and press the palms into the mat slightly pushing back as if trying to drag the body forward,  take a short exhalation, inhale again and lift the torso and thighs upward, keep the thighs turned inward and arms outward
  3. Tuck the tailbone in as if pushing the pubis toward the navel, keep the hips firm not hardened, squeezing them narrow,  push the shoulder blades toward the spine, thrust the side ribs in front, making sure not to push the central ribs forward as that can stiffen the lower back, push the sternum upwards
  4. Slightly arch the neck backward evenly aligning it with the arch of the whole spine and not overextending it backward, the entire body is touching the mat only at two points: the palms and the top of the feet, keep the chin parallel; to the floor or a bit raised upwards
  5. Release Uurdhvamukhasvan asana  while exhaling and return to the starting position

Breathing Pattern & duration, Urdhvamukhasvan Asana

 Inhale while lifting the upper body until the final posture is achieved. In the final pose of Urdhvamukhasvan asana breathe normal and hold it from anywhere between 15 to 30 seconds, exhale and return to the starting position.

Follow up poses, Upward-facing Dog Pose

Any backbend or forward bend can be done after Upward-facing Dog Pose.

Alignment essentials and modifications, Upward-facing Dog 

  • The shoulders must be kept away from the ears and not near them,  achieve this by not resting the body weight on the wrists, instead engage the hands by generating an upward lift throughout otherwise the neck will sag within the shoulders and the wrists, elbows and the shoulders will not be vertically aligned Upward Dog Pose
  • Press down on the top of the feet through the entire length of the legs, lengthening them, in order to keep the pelvis and the knees raised up from the mat
  •  In order to prevent pain in the lower back, the entire length of the spine must bend in a smooth curve, the lower back pains when the upper back isn’t curving back at all and the lower back gets hyper curved for  giving a false sense of a complete backbend
  • In order to avoid this while doing Urdhvamukhasvan asana stretch all the ten toes, especially the little toes outward to engage the quadriceps which will help extend the lower back upward in an even curve with the rest of the spine
  • Rotate the inner thighs inwards  for adding width to the lower back, and drop the buttocks down, this way the arch in this region is decreased along with creating extra length along it, this protects the lower back
  • Lift your sternum up and forward, press the shoulder blades into the middle back, this will, pull the shoulder tops backward creating an upper back arch as required for Upwards Dog Pose
  • Using the blocks under the palms will give extra lift to the torso aiding in intensifying the curvature in the upper back
  • The shoulders should be exactly above the wrist: in case the shoulders are ahead of the wrists getting the thoracic lift becomes difficult; in case they are behind the wrists in alignment the tendency to settle down the body weight into the lower back increases
  • To achieve correct shoulder alignment  for Upward Facing Dog pose adjust the body as required and not the wrists, keep the back of the neck extended as much as possible, keep the feet pressed in the mat, restrict them from sliding forward along with the lift of the torso
  • The shoulder blades must press into the middle of the upper back in order to push the chest forward

Also adhere to the general principles of alignment in yoga and train yourself in using the right action and attitude while practicing yoga asana. 

Common Faults, Urdhvamukhasvan Asana

  • The shoulders are drawn too near to the ears
  • The back of the neck and the lower back are arched more than the thoracic region of the spine in Urdhva Mukhasvan Pose
  • Shoulders are not exactly over the wrists: forward or behind them

Contraindications – When not to do Upward-facing Dog Pose 

  • Any injury to shoulders, wrists or lower back
  • Pregnancy
  • A headache

Advantages- benefits of doing Upward-Facing Dog Pose 

  • Upward dog pose trains on lifting the chest in poses like Virbhadra asana and Tadasana
  • Improves posture by strengthening arms, wrists, and shoulders (deltoid muscle), and is always a part of the yoga procedures for arms
  • Is helpful in conditions like Asthma as it opens up the chest by stretching the muscles involved in it and opens the upper back
  • Enervates the abdominal organs adding to their wellness
  • Help fight mild depression and fatigue
  • Beneficial to Sciatica
  • Tone the legs, shoulders, and spine