I’ve taught over 9000 hours (maybe just a few classes now) and I seem to cringe in sheer yogic horror at the fact that many students in the class have challenges with Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Savasana).
Teaching the fundamentals is integral for me to see students develop on their yoga journey with a better understanding of their physical body so they can focus on their entire practice safely and effectively.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Savasana) posture is a great energetic heart opener that also provides a release in the hips while strengthening the core, arms and legs. Maintaining stability in this “asana” provides the student with improved engagement of many muscles in the entire body which ultimately supports and lengthens the spine.
This posture is a progression from Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) where the hips remain on the floor with bent elbows, Upward Facing Dog promotes straight arms with the thighs lifted off the floor.
Tips to improve your Upward Facing Dog:
1. When lowering from high plank, pull toes towards hips to keep core engaged. Lower to knees for Cobra or lower only two thirds on the way down before pressing into upward facing dog (hips and thighs stay off ground during transition from Chaturanga to Urdhva Mukha Savasana (Four limbed Staff Pose to Upward Facing Dog).
2. Press into hands and draw energy towards hips when lifting thighs off floor. This will ensure the core is being lifted and drawn forward to support spine (especially lower back).
3. Shoulders are directly above fingers. Having hands too far forward as you lift puts pressure on joints and possible strain on lower lumbar region. Start with elbows bent at 90 degrees to ensure correct alignment prior to pressing up.
4. Remember to squeeze ankles together rather than engage glute muscles. This activates the legs to stabilize without putting unnecessary pressure on the sacrum (lower part of spine). You want the spine to lengthen from all points instead of compressing in the lumbar region. Shoulders pull down and away from ears to avoid shrugging. Lift chest and push forward
Here are some photos explaining the stages from Cobra to Upward Facing Dog and from High Plank to Upward Facing Dog.
Practice with these techniques and experience your posture improve both on and off the mat.