Upward Facing Dog: (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) – An Uplifting Pose

by | Yoga, Yoga Poses

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Upward Facing Dog: (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Name: Upward Facing Dog:

Sanskrit:  Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Pronunciation: OORD-vah MOO-kah shvan-AHS-anna

Pose Level: Beginner level yoga pose

upward facing dog

Step-by-Step Guide to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, or Upward Facing Dog, is a rejuvenating yoga pose focusing on strength and flexibility. Here’s a step-by-step guide to properly execute this asana:

Starting PositionBegin by lying face down on your yoga mat. Keep the tops of your feet flat on the ground, with legs hip-width apart.
Hand PlacementPlace your hands under your shoulders. Ensure your elbows are close to your body, not flared out.
Lifting into the PosePress your hands into the mat to lift your chest and pelvis. If lifting the pelvis is challenging, focus on elevating the chest, similar to Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).
Shoulder AlignmentAs you lift, draw your shoulders back and down. Be mindful to avoid over-arching your back.
Head PositionGently tilt your head back if comfortable, or maintain a forward gaze. Ensure your neck remains relaxed and not strained.
Maintaining the PoseHold Urdhva Mukha Svanasana for a few breaths. With practice, gradually increase the duration of the hold.

Tips for Practicing Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

  • Progress at Your Own Pace: If you’re new to yoga, it’s normal not to lift your pelvis initially. With consistent practice, your strength and flexibility will improve.
  • Mindful of Your Back: Pay attention to the curve in your lower back. Aim for a comfortable stretch rather than forcing an intense arch.
  • Neck Comfort: The focus should be on a natural extension of the spine, including the neck. Avoid crunching or overextending the neck area.

Practicing Urdhva Mukha Svanasana regularly can significantly enhance spinal flexibility and strengthen the back and arms. As with any yoga pose, listen to your body and modify as needed to suit your comfort level.

Related Article: Yoga Basics: Common Yoga Knowledge & Some Simple Yoga Poses

Muscle Groups and Pose Modifications

Upward Facing Dog, or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, activates several muscle groups and can be adapted for practitioners of all levels. This asana is a backbend that significantly elongates the spine and torso.

Muscle Groups Engaged in Upward Facing Dog

  • Chest: Expands and stretches the chest muscles.
  • Arms and Shoulders: Strengthens and stretches the arms and shoulders.
  • Back: Engages the muscles along the spine, aiding in back flexibility.
  • Glutes: Involves the gluteal muscles to support the backbend.
  • Pelvic Region: Stretches and strengthens the pelvic area.
  • Psoas: Engages the psoas muscle, crucial for maintaining posture.
  • Neck: Involves gentle stretching of the neck muscles.

Pose Modifications for Upward Facing Dog

  • Accessibility for All Levels: Upward Facing Dog can be adapted to suit both seasoned yogis and beginners. The extent of the backbend can be adjusted based on individual flexibility and comfort.
  • Spinal Elongation: This asana emphasizes the elongation of the spine and torso, making it beneficial for improving posture and spinal health.
  • Adaptable Intensity: Beginners can start with a less intense backbend, focusing on chest expansion and spinal elongation without overly straining the back.

Incorporating Upward Facing Dog into your yoga practice can offer a range of benefits, from enhancing flexibility and strength in various muscle groups to improving overall posture. As always, it’s important to listen to your body and make modifications as needed to ensure safety and comfort in the pose.

Related Article: How to Know When I’m Ready For Advanced Asanas? Advanced Yoga

Mastering the Upward Facing Dog asana can require time and patience as you build the necessary strength. In the interim, you might find practicing Bhujangasana, or Cobra Pose, more suitable. Cobra Pose offers a bit more control over the extent of the backbend.

Tips for Easing into the Pose

  • Use of a Yoga Pillow: Placing a yoga pillow between your thighs and the mat can provide substantial support for your body weight. This can be particularly helpful for beginners or those with less flexibility.
  • Adjusting for Comfort: You can also position the pillow under your pelvis to find the most comfortable angle for your backbend.

Modifications to Deepen the Pose

  • Yoga Bricks for Enhanced Arch: For a more pronounced back arch, try placing two yoga bricks under your palms. This modification elevates the upper body further, intensifying the bend in the back.
  • Gradual Progression: As you grow more comfortable with the pose, these adjustments can help you deepen the stretch at a pace that feels right for you.

These modifications can make the Upward Facing Dog more accessible and comfortable, especially as you work on developing the strength and flexibility needed for the full expression of the asana. Remember, yoga is a journey, and each pose can be adapted to meet you where you are in your practice.


You should avoid Upward Facing Dog in certain instances. For example, those that suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Another contraindication includes pregnancy or lower back pain. In addition, if you have pain in your elbows, shoulders or neck. Always consult a yoga instructor if unsure how to get the most out of this position or other asanas.

Poses Commonly Transitioned too:

Downward-Facing Dog

Poses Commonly Transitioned From:

Cobra Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana, Eight Limbed Pose

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them to purchase items, then we may earn a small commission. Hope you find something that you like!
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