How to Do Upward-Facing Dog Pose in Yoga (Guide to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

The aptly named upward-facing dog pose feels exactly like you’d imagine it would. A deep opening through the chest and lengthening through the spine that your body will thank you for when waking up in the morning or simply adding some movement into your day.

The important thing in this pose is to keep your legs engaged to allow you to build strength in the arms.

“Upward-facing dog pose is one of the very first poses you’ll learn that your body will really thank you for,” says Yoga Answered contributor Keira Shepherd. “Although it can feel challenging when still trying to build strength, this pose can feel somewhat restorative for the body once you’re comfortable practicing it.”

Upward-Facing Dog Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Pose Type: Chest-Opening Yoga Poses, Yoga Backbend Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner pose
Targets: Arms, shoulders, lower back, middle back, core, glutes, chest, neck, psoas
Benefits: This pose allows you to open the chest for more effective breathing, engages the entire lower body, and lengthens the spine.
Preparatory Poses: Plank pose, downward-facing dog pose, high/low lunge with half-angel wings

How to Do Upward-Facing Dog Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Start by laying on your belly on your mat.
  2. Place your hands palm-down directly underneath your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you turn your legs in just slightly – almost as though you’re trying to bring your heels to touch.
  4. Take a deep breath in.
  5. As you exhale, push into your hands to straighten through the arms and bring the crown of your head to reach towards the sky.
  6. Bring the shoulders down and away from the ears.
  7. Lift your knees away from the mat so that the only contact you have with the mat comes from your palms and the tops of your feet.
  8. Gaze gently ahead and soften your face.
  9. Stay engaged in the legs.
  10. Pull your chest through your upper arms and focus on taking deep breaths.

Beginner’s Tip

When practicing this pose, remember to keep your glutes engaged to lift your knees from the floor.

If this feels too intense, engage the glutes by turning the legs towards each other but keep the knees resting on the floor until you have enough strength in the arms to lift them.

Contraindications

  • Avoid this pose completely or practice cobra pose instead if you have a slipped disc
  • Avoid or add blocks underneath the hands if you have pain in the wrists
  • Don’t practice this pose if pregnant

Variation

If this pose feels too intense on your spine, try practicing cobra pose instead.

Bring the hands underneath the shoulders as though setting up for upward-facing dog pose.

Push into your hands until you reach a 90-degree bend in the elbows – you can stay closer to the ground if needed. Focus on creating a comfortable stretching sensation in the lower spine. In time, you might like to work your way towards upward-facing dog pose or, alternatively, stick to cobra pose!

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