The Benefits of Upward-Facing Dog
Upward-facing dog is a powerful pose that helps to stretch and open the front of the body, particularly the chest, shoulders, and core muscles. It helps to increase flexibility in the spine and arms, creating a greater range of motion in the body.
Strengthening the Back
In addition to stretching the front of the body, upward-facing dog also strengthens the back muscles. This can help to improve posture, alleviate back pain, and create a stronger, more balanced body. It also helps in engaging core muscles to support the back and maintain balance in the pose.
An Overall Balance of the Body
Practicing upward-facing dog regularly can help to improve overall body balance, by working both the front and back of the body, as well as the core. It also helps in improving balance of the breath and mind, promoting a sense of calm and well-being.
The Basics of the Pose
Positioning the Hands and Feet
To set up for the pose, begin in a prone position on the floor with your hands flat next to your ribcage, fingers pointing forward and elbows close to the body. Your legs should be extended behind you, with the tops of your feet pressed into the mat. As you inhale, press your hands and feet down into the mat to lift your chest and thighs up off the floor. Keep your elbows close to your body as you lift, and keep your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears.
Aligning the Spine
When coming into the pose, it is important to ensure proper alignment of the spine. Lengthening through the tailbone and bringing your shoulder blades towards each other, while keeping the head in a neutral position and looking at the floor can help to align the spine. Avoid compressing the lower back, keep your shoulder blades moving towards the back of the body.
Breathing During the Pose
The breath is an important aspect of the pose, as it helps to support the lift and extension of the spine. Try to sync your breath with your movement, inhale as you lift up and exhale as you lower down. Maintaining deep and steady breathing throughout the pose can help to promote relaxation and stability in the pose.
Modifications to Make
Upward-Facing Dog with the Wall
For beginners or for those who have difficulty lifting into the full pose, you can use a wall to help support your back. Stand facing the wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height, step your feet back and slowly lower your body towards the wall, until your chest is resting against the wall. This will help to take some of the weight off the upper body and make it easier to hold the pose.
Upward-Facing Dog on the Chair
Another modification is to practice the pose on a chair. Sit in a chair and place your hands on the armrests, press your feet firmly into the floor, and lift your chest up and out as you inhale. This can help to build strength and confidence in the pose, before trying it on the floor.
Cobra Pose as an Alternative
For beginners or those with injuries or concerns, the cobra pose can be a good alternative. It is a gentle backbend that works to open the chest and strengthen the back while being less intense on the shoulders and wrists.
Advanced Variations to Try
Extended Upward-Facing Dog
For those who have mastered the basics of upward-facing dog, you can try an extended version of the pose, by reaching one arm out in front of you and the other behind you, while lifting the chest. This variation helps to increase the stretch in the chest, shoulder and arm.
Flipped Upward-Facing Dog
Another advanced variation is to try flipping the position of the hands and feet, by placing the hands where the feet were, and vice versa. This variation adds a challenge to balance and stability, and works to open the shoulders and upper back.
The firefly pose is a more advanced variation of the upward-facing dog pose, it requires good balance, core strength and flexibility.
To do this pose, come into a low plank position with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bring your hands closer together and lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Keep your core engaged and your shoulders relaxed. When you find your balance, lift one leg off the floor and try to straighten it behind you. Then, repeat this with the other leg, making sure to keep your core engaged and your chest lifted.
Tips for a Successful Upward-Facing Dog
Engaging the Core for Support
A strong core is essential for holding the pose, keeping the lower back safe and the body balanced. Try to engage your abdominal muscles to support your lower back as you lift into the pose.
Creating Space in the Shoulders
It is important to keep the shoulders relaxed and down away from the ears, to avoid any tension or strain in the shoulders. Also, it helps to keep the arms close to the body, which can create more space in the shoulders and open the chest.
Softening the Face and Jaw
Relaxing the face and jaw can help to promote a sense of calm and relaxation throughout the body. Letting go of any tension in the face and jaw can help to release tension in the rest of the body and make it easier to hold the pose.
Upward-facing dog is a powerful pose that can help to improve flexibility, strengthen the back and create an overall balance in the body. It is a pose that can be modified to suit different levels of ability and experience.
Can I practice Upward-Facing Dog with back problems?
If you have back problems, it’s important to consult with a doctor or a yoga therapist before practicing this pose, as some people may need to avoid this pose or modify it to suit their individual needs. It’s also important to listen to your body and avoid any pain or discomfort while practicing. If you experience any pain, it’s best to come out of the pose.
I feel a lot of pressure in my wrists while doing Upward-Facing Dog, is this normal?
It is not uncommon for practitioners to feel pressure in their wrists while practicing this pose, especially if they have weak or tight wrists. You can modify the pose by placing a folded blanket or mat under your hands to alleviate the pressure. You can also work on strengthening your wrists by practicing other yoga poses that target the wrists, such as downward-facing dog or child’s pose. It’s important to listen to your body and adjust the pose accordingly.