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Upward-Facing Dog

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Upward Dog is a heart-opening yoga pose that involves lifting the chest while the hands and feet press into the ground. It improves posture and strengthens the back and core.







How to do Upward-Facing Dog

Upward Dog can be done by:

  1. Start by lying flat on your belly with your legs extended and the tops of your feet pressing into the mat.

  2. Place your hands on the ground, directly under your shoulders, with your fingers spread wide and pointing forward.

  3. Press down firmly through your hands and the tops of your feet, engaging your core muscles.

  4. Inhale deeply and begin to straighten your arms, lifting your chest and upper body off the mat. Keep your hips and legs grounded.

  5. Roll your shoulders back and down, opening your chest and lifting your heart towards the ceiling.

  6. Look straight ahead or slightly upward, keeping your neck in line with your spine.

  7. Ensure your elbows are slightly bent, and avoid locking them to prevent strain on the joints.

  8. Press firmly through your palms and the tops of your feet, engaging your thighs and buttocks for support.

  9. Hold the pose for a few breaths, maintaining a gentle stretch in your spine and front body.

  10. To release the pose, exhale and slowly lower your chest back down to the mat.


  1. Strengthens the back, shoulders, and arms.

  2. Stretches and opens the chest and front body, promoting better posture and respiratory capacity.


If you have limitations or find Upward Dog challenging, there are several options and alternatives you can explore to modify the pose or find a variation that suits your needs:

  • Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): Cobra Pose is a gentler backbend that can be a suitable alternative for those with wrist issues or limited back flexibility. Instead of straightening your arms, keep your forearms on the ground and lift your chest, using your back muscles.

  • Sphinx Pose: Sphinx Pose is another accessible alternative to Upward Dog. Lie on your belly with your elbows under your shoulders and forearms flat on the mat. Lift your chest, keeping your hips and thighs on the ground, and look forward.

  • Baby Cobra Pose: If Cobra Pose is still too intense, you can try Baby Cobra. From a prone position, gently lift your chest off the mat using your hands and a light engagement of your back muscles. Keep your elbows bent and close to your sides.

  • Modified Upward Dog: To reduce strain on the wrists, place your fists or forearms on the mat instead of your palms. This modification can also be helpful for individuals with wrist pain or injury.

  • Wall-Assisted Upward Dog: Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step back a little and lean into the wall, gently arching your back and lifting your chest. This variation can be helpful for those with limited wrist mobility or strength.

  • Upward Dog with Props: Use yoga blocks or bolsters under your hands to elevate the height and reduce the bend in your wrists. This can be beneficial for individuals with wrist discomfort.

  • Upward Dog with Knees Down: Perform Upward Dog with your knees on the mat instead of your feet. This modification can be helpful for beginners or individuals with lower back sensitivity.

Remember, it's essential to listen to your body and practice within your comfort zone. Yoga is a versatile practice, and there are always options and alternatives available to accommodate different abilities and needs. If you're uncertain about which modification is suitable for you, consider consulting with a yoga instructor or healthcare professional for personalized guidance.


While Upward Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) can be a beneficial pose for many, there are some cautions and contraindications to be aware of:

  • Wrist Pain or Injury: If you have existing wrist pain or injury, be mindful while performing Upward Dog, and consider using yoga props like blocks to alleviate pressure on the wrists.

  • Lower Back Issues: Individuals with lower back problems should exercise caution in this pose. To avoid strain, engage the core muscles and focus on lifting the chest rather than arching the lower back excessively.

  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women should modify the pose by performing Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) instead, as Upward Dog's deep backbend may not be suitable during pregnancy.

  • Recent Abdominal Surgery: People who have undergone recent abdominal surgery should avoid deep backbends like Upward Dog until they have fully healed.

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, avoid putting excessive weight on your hands in this pose, as it may exacerbate the condition.

  • Spinal Injury: Individuals with severe spinal injuries or conditions should avoid this pose, as the deep backbend can put additional stress on the spine.

  • Wrist, Arm, or Shoulder Injury: If you have any injuries to your wrists, arms, or shoulders, it's best to avoid Upward Dog until the injuries have healed.

  • High Blood Pressure: Upward Dog can increase blood flow to the head and may not be suitable for those with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Always consult with a qualified yoga instructor or healthcare professional if you have any pre-existing conditions or concerns before attempting Upward Dog or any other yoga poses. They can provide personalized guidance and modifications to ensure your practice is safe and beneficial.

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