Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.
As a follow on from the challenge of Chaturanga Dandasana, it’s only natural to talk about Upwards Facing Dog. Here we will explain the benefits to the pose and how to safely practice your Up Dog in class and at home.
This powerful backbend can improve posture, strengthen the spine, arms, wrists, bum and legs. At the same time it stretches the belly, chest and shoulders and gives us an opportunity to breathe deep into our lungs whilst keeping a super strong core. This backbend comes with many benefits, but at the same time it should be practiced with caution as Upwards Facing Dog can often be practiced unsafely.
If you suffer from any back injuries, or just from general soreness in the lower back, either avoid this pose or practice with a lot care. Bendy people also beware! This pose is so easy to flop into without the correct support, if you’re the sort of person that can easily fall in to this pose keep strong attention on your core support – it’ll do you a world of good!
Also if you are pregnant or suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome it’s best to avoid this pose.
Boat Pose – Navasana
Plank – Phalankasana
Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana
Bridge Pose – Setu Bandhasana (above)
STEP BY STEP GUIDE
Start in Plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders, elbows off of lock and your feet up to a hip width apart, heels pressing firmly backwards. Start to really engage your lower abdominal muscles. Feel as if the space a couple of inches below your navel lifts in towards your spine and up towards your ribs. This will help you to lengthen your lower spine, you might feel as if the tailbone lengthens down towards the heels. This is a good and strong support to keep throughout this pose.
If you have been practicing a long time, you feel strong and supported and you’ve been taught this before you can lower yourself to Chaturanga Dandasana (read here for instructions how to practice this pose) but you can stay in Plank if you’re still building strength.
If you are coming from Plank, inhale to keep your hips where they are and the legs and core really strong as you start to lift your chest upwards and look forward. You’ll feel your upper spine start to work here to open up the chest and draw the shoulderblades in towards each other as your belly and chest feel a soft stretch coming to that area.
If you are coming from Chaturanga Dandasana, you do the same as above however you also lengthen your arms. Try not to lock the elbows in their joints.
In Upwards Facing Dog keep your abdominal muscles working strong (you may also feel Mula Bandha – a lift in the pelvic floor) to keep support for your lower spine whilst you press back through your heels and breathe deeply and calmly into your chest. The hips can often sag downwards so keep them elevated. You want to feel as if you’re constantly creating space in your lower spine by lengthening the tailbone downwards and lifting the pubic bone towards the navel. If you feel any strain or crunching in the lower back, or anywhere else, come out of the pose.
Stay here for 6 or so deep, slow, rythmic breaths. When you’re ready to come out of this pose you can come to Plank and softly land the knees nice and wide to sit yourself in Adho Mukha Virasana or if you’re feeling hardcore, use the strength in your belly to lift the hips up and back into Downward Facing Dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana.