Pose of the Month: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

Happy October, Friends!

The advent of this month signals the start of the autumn in earnest. As the days become shorter and life begins to swirl faster, it is important to devote time to still the mind and reflect. I recently took pause and contemplated my personal Yoga practice. I set an intention to ensure I was never on “auto-pilot” when I am on my mat.

I, like many other Yogis, tend to flow through my Chaturanga flows without giving them much thought. I realized that this means I have been chronically been neglecting an important and empowering shape: my Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog.)

In my daily practice, I tend to regard this posture as a mere transitional point between Churanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff pose) and Downward Facing Dog. However, like so many things that are passed by without thought in daily life, there is a lot of beauty in this posture. It opens the belly, heart, chest, and collarbones, allowing room for Prana (life force energy) to flow freely all throughout the upper body. It allows the body to simultaneously stretch (in the low back) and strengthen (in the legs, ankles, feet, wrists, arms, and shoulders). It engages the Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock), preparing the body to remain stable and properly aligned throughout your practice. Finally, it is an excellent warm up to prime the body for deeper backward bending postures.

Although I am sure many of you take this posture on a daily basis, I encourage you all to try building this posture from the ground up using the following steps:

  1. Begin in Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose, lowered halfway down a push up, elbows knit into the side body)
  2. Turn the tops of your feet down
  3. Ground your palms down to the earth
  4. Straighten your elbows, making a solid, unbroken energy line with each of your arms
  5. Elevate your torso and hips off the mat
  6. Slide your chest and hips forwards toward the front of your space
  7. Gaze outward and in front of you

As with any Yoga posture, if this does not feel comfortable in your body, modify it! A very simple option for a modification in this shape is to simply keep your legs grounded on your mat and take a Bhujangasana (Cobra pose). Please take extra care before attempting this posture if you have an injury in your wrists, shoulders, feet, or ankles.

So, friends, I invite you to join me in this intention: this autumn, take time to pause and find beauty in abundance, even in the most simple of places, including your Yoga Practice and your Upward Facing Dog Pose!

Namaste Awesome!

Ryan

PS – for those of you who enjoy studying your Sanskrit (like me!), here is the breakdown of this posture name:

Urdhva = Upward

Mukha = Facing

Svana = Dog

Asana = Posture

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