Spotlight On The Upward Dogs

Last time we busted out our spotlight we shone it on Downward Facing Dog and some of the variations which spring out of that classic, whole body pose. If you missed that batch, check it out here.

Now, this week we'll turn our spotlight to the other side of the yoga dog coin, and that is Upward Facing Dog, or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. If you've ever seen a dog do Downward Dog, you've likely seen that stretch immediately followed by a nice Upward Dog. This pose ain't no puppy, though!

Upward Facing Dog is a pretty big backbend that requires strong legs and arms with an open chest and hip flexors. Such a strong pose offers powerful benefits, too. Mr. Iyengar confirms for us that it rejuvenates and strengthens the spine, counteracts lumbago, sciatica, slipped or prolapsed discs, it increases elasticity in the lungs through that big chest expansion, and increases circulation to and tones the pelvic region.

Yet, as robust as this dog is, it's hardly set aside for an advanced practice. Rather, we encounter it all the time in our asana practice as a central component of our Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) or in what many call a "vinyasa" in flow yoga styles, which is really just a segmentation of our full Sun Salutations.

So, your dog likely does a pretty great Upward Facing Dog, and loves it. But, confession time, here. How do you really feel about your Upward Facing Dog? If your answer is not exactly in the positive, you're not alone. This pose is one of the most commonly disliked poses in students I've just met. But, never fear, because it's also one of my most commonly rehabilitated poses for students once we've had a chance to refine it a bit! Developing a happy relationship with this pose is typically just a matter of making a few refinements to get our whole body involved, rather than dumping strain into one or two poor overworked areas.

So, let’s get to work shall we? We'll actually start to build and refine this pose with the pose that typically precedes it in sequence: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)! There's so much work done in Chaturanga Dandasana that sets us up beautifully for the big backbend of Upward Dog that we just cannot skip over it here in our detailed spotlight view. So, set the stage for our your Upward Facing Dog with free video of the week #1.

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Whew, that was fun, right?! Now that you've laid the foundation, let's build up the rest of our temple into our long-awaited focus pose with free video of the week #2.

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Nice work! Hopefully those two tutorials combined to give you the strongest, most mature Upward Facing Dog you've had yet. And if you're still working your way up to the full pose, keep working with those variations on Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) or even Sphinx Pose. Both variations on Upward Dog will serve you well in providing some of the same benefits of the upper body backbend (energy boost, back strength, posture improvement, etc.) while allowing you a safe space in which to gradually develop the combination of strength and flexibility required for a big healthy Upward Facing Dog.

Finally, if you love doing this upper body backbend, you’ve got to check out our featured premium video of the week for MOJO Members only: Kassandra Reinhardt's Upper Body Backbends practice! This one will help you reverse some of the effects of all the sitting and forward reaching we do all day, helping us to find some opening through the front body and strength in the back body. So, MOJO Members, just login to see this one at the top of your Member Home Page this week. And of course, if you’re not a MOJO Member yet, check out this preview and start your MOJO Membership today to get the rest of this rejuvenating, energizing practice.

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