Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: My favorite pose

UpdogAhh updog! How empty my life would be without you.

When I started practicing yoga I would always take an extra breath in this pose.  I felt like this was where I belonged.  This was the first pose that felt truly effortless.  It was like a gentle breeze on a hot summer day.  Nothing else mattered and I could just be in the moment.  Later when I learned more about this pose and my body, I figured that it felt good because it stretched my pelvic muscles that so rarely get stretched.  [I will save my views on stretching the pelvic floor for another post]

It can’t just be that upward facing dog is a good stretch.  There has to be more to this pose that makes it feel so good.  Iyengar says that this pose rejuvenates and strengthens the spine as well as helps with back issues and cures backache.  It also helps the lungs and keeps the pelvic region healthy.  Upward facing dog strengthens the arms and even helps improve your mood.  Wow! That’s some powerful stuff.  So we got arms, lungs, back and pelvic area benefiting here.  Many of us spend so much time hunched forward at our desks and computers. This pose is great to counter drooping shoulders that result from a sedentary lifestyle and help us stand tall.  Next time you’re in updog think about all the good you’re doing your body and maybe spend a couple of extra breaths here.

Here are some tips that I have learned along the way:

  1. Think of pulling your chest between your arms to visualize moving into the pose from chaturanga.
  2. Press the tops of the feet and hands into the  mat
  3. Learn to roll over the toes to transition into downdog by rolling one foot at a time.
  4. On the days where your body is not ready for upward facing dog try cobra instead.
  5. Use blocks to get more lift.

Iyengar recommends staying in this pose for half a minute to a minute, while breathing deeply.  Try this and see how it feels.

What is your favorite pose?