How to do Upward Facing Dog Pose

Upward Facing Dog pose is one of the most frequently used poses in yoga.  In a single class you could end up doing 5o or more Upward Facing Dogs.

In “flow” style yoga classes the upward facing dog is part of the main Vinyasa. A vinyasa is a sequence of  movements that connects poses together. The Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog into Downward-Facing Dog vinyasa is the most common in all of yoga.

It is especially important that new yogis understand how to correctly do the Upward Facing Dog pose because repeatedly doing it incorrectly throughout a class could lead to injury.  The nature of the Upward Facing Dog vinyasa flow prevents practitioners from holding the pose for very long.  Thus, it is unlikely that a new yoga student will spend much time perfecting the pose.

If you are serious about regularly practicing flow style yoga you should set aside some time to study this pose in detail.

upward facing dog

Upward Facing Dog Pose

Step 1

  • Lie on your belly stretch your legs back and put the tops of your feet on the floor.
  • Bend your elbows so that your hands are on either side of your waist.
  • Spread your fingers wide and place your palms on the floor- this should make your forearm nearly perpendicular to the floor.

Step 2

  • On an inhale and firmly push your hands into the floor and pull slightly back in an isometric contraction.  You should feel like you’re trying to pull yourself forward along the floor.
  • Lift your torso up by extending your arms.
  • On an inhale, lift your legs a few inches off the floor keep the thighs firm and with a slight internal rotation.
  • Rotate within the shoulder joint so the elbow creases face forward and keep the arms strong.

Step 3

  • Reposition the tailbone so that it is pressing toward the pubic bone and lift the pubis toward the navel.
  • Keep internally rotating the hips. Keep the buttocks firm but do not maximally contract the glutes.

 Step 4

  •  Press the shoulder blades against the back and expand the ribs forward.
  • Reach the top of the breast bone toward the celling but don’t press the front ribs forward, that will put pressure on the low back
  • Look straight ahead.  You should feel lifted, do not compress the spine or contort your face.
  • Hold for  15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily.
  • On an exhalation, come back down to the floor or lift into Downward Facing Dog

 Tips for a better Upward Facing Dog

To protect your wrists from unnecessary pressure spread your finger out and press down with all 4 corners of your hand and all 5 finger tips.

The legs and the core do most of the work in this pose.  Do not hang off of the shoulders. Engage the core and press the tops of the feet into the ground to firm and engage the thighs.

Retract and depress the shoulder blades.  Drawing the shoulder blades down and back will open up your chest.

Put a micro-bend in your elbows to engage the triceps.

Separating this pose from the traditional sun salutation vinyasa will allow you to fine tune your technique. A proper Upward Facing Dog will improve your form and ensure a safe flow yoga class.


 Photo by Julie Bernstein

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