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How to do Upward Facing Dog Pose

How to do Upward Facing Dog Pose

What is Upward Facing Dog Pose? 

The upward facing dog pose is a challenging backbend that lengthens, stretches and strengthens the spine, torso and arms. The Sanskrit name for the posture is Urdhva (upward) Mukha (face) Svana (dog) Asana (pose). It is a part of the Ashtanga Surya Namaskar series and is often practiced as a part of many Ashtanga and Vinyasa sequences. It builds strength and stamina, and prepares the body for deep and intense backbends. 

Position type: Backbend 

Posture type: Prone 

Ideal for: Strength

Targets: Back, torso and arms 

Pose level: Intermediate 

How to prepare for Upward Facing Dog

Core strength

Since the upward facing dog pose is a strengthening backbend, building core strength is important. Practicing the Warrior series, Triangle Pose, Chair Pose, Boat Pose, Camel Pose, etc are all yoga postures that build strength and stamina. You will not only build the required strength to do Upward Facing Dog but also be able to hold the posture for longer. Practicing Surya Namaskars is also a great way to build strength. 

Triangle Pose

Back flexibility

Start with beginner-level backbends such as the Locust Pose, Cobra Pose and the Camel Pose. As you improve back flexibility, you will be able to bend effortlessly, allowing you to go deeper into the Upward Facing Dog Pose. 

Locust Pose

How to do Upward Facing Dog Pose

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Getting into the posture

  • Start by lying down on your stomach. Place the hands next to the ribs with your elbows tucked into your sides. 
  • The feet should be pressed into the floor with the top of the feet facing on the mat. 
  • Keep the thighs, knees and abdomen engaged. The tailbone should be pointing towards the heels. 
  • Inhale, press into the hands and feet, straighten the arms and lift your chest and legs off the floor.
  • Push the shoulder back and open up the chest. 
  • Look straight or upwards towards the ceiling. 
  • Stay here for 4-5 deep breaths or as long as you are comfortable. 

Getting out of the posture

  • Exhale and lower yourself onto the mat. You can also raise up into the Downward Facing Dog Pose from here. 

Key alignments in the Upward Facing Dog Pose

  1. Roll the shoulders back towards the spine. Do not let the shoulders raise towards the ears. 
  2. Keep the elbows closer towards the body. Do not let the elbows fall outwards. 
  3. Keep the legs active and engaged, and the knees lifted up from the mat. 

What are the benefits of Upward Facing Dog Pose?

The Upward Facing Dog Pose is a strengthening yoga posture that opens up the chest and lungs, and strengthens the entire body. It helps align the spine and invigorates the body. It stretches the entire front of the body, including the chest and the intercostal muscles between the ribs. It is helpful for those with asthma. It strengthens the wrist, arms, shoulders, upper back and legs. It also stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion. It has a counter-effect on the forward-bending posture that most of us take up when sitting, driving or even cooking. Upward facing dog pose improves posture. It is also very invigorating for the nervous system, providing relief from tiredness and fatigue. 

What are the contraindications of the Upward Facing Dog Pose? 

Anyone who has recently gone through a back injury or is suffering from chronic back pain should avoid the posture. Upward-Facing Dog should not be practiced in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, or a recent wrist injury. If one has pain in the hips, arms or should also the posture should be avoided. Pregnant women and anyone with recent abdominal surgery should not do Upward Facing Dog Pose. Keep the gaze at neck level if there is any neck pain. 

Counter poses for the Upward Facing Dog Pose

Practitioners can go into the Downward Facing Dog Pose from the Upward Facing Dog Pose. If practiced on its own, then one can do the Child’s Pose for a minute after Upward Facing Dog Pose.

Downward Facing Dog

Variations of Upward Facing Dog Pose 

Easy Variation

  • Initially one may place the knees on the mat very lightly. 
  • Blocks can be placed under the palms for better support. 

Advanced Variation

  • One can try tucking the toes in the posture. This will allow the legs to lift higher up. 
  • Advanced practitioners can try to gently sway the upper body from side to side when in the posture. 

Advice for beginners 

Ensure you keep the legs and lower belly engaged. This will protect the lower back. Start with looking straight ahead and once comfortable in the posture, you can lift the head up. But avoid tilting the head too much. Also ensure you are keeping the shoulder rolled back towards the spine. 

Shvasa tips

  • Keep the palms pressed actively into the mat or blocks. 
  • Keep the chest drawn forward towards the arms and move the shoulder blades towards the tailbone. 
  • Legs should remain active so that the knees are off the mat. 
How to do Upward Facing Dog Pose
Shvasa Editorial Team

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