Thursday, April 17, 2008

Focus Pose - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

Continuing in our focus pose series, we are moving into Surya Namaskar B by breaking down some individual poses that we see several times while moving through the Sun Salutation. Last week I took a look at plank pose. This week I am going to tie plank pose and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana together.

From Plank, we exhale and lower ourselves down. In the full expression, only our hands and feet will touch the ground and on a strong uplifting inhale, we lift our torso and head into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - Upward Facing Dog position. This is a small backbend! Keep the ribcage moving forward through the arms, the sternum is lifting upward, shoulders are opening and broad, shoulders are moving away from the ears and shoulder blades moving down the spine. This motion applies if you are in a cobra position (Level 1) or a full up-dog (Level 3). It is important not to crunch the lower back in any level.

Drishti - nose or ceiling.

Wrists are directly below the shoulders and arms are strong. If you know you hyper extend, put a slight bend in your elbows.



The tops of the feet are pressing into the mat and the toes point to the back of the room. Heels should be moving toward the ceiling and not "slopping" inward or outward. Thighs, knees and calves are active and engaged.

MODIFICATION(S) - Come into plank and lower you knees and only your knees to your mat. Proceed through a cobra or into up-dog. (Level 1 or 2)

If it is not comfortable to support your whole body with just wrists and ankles at this time, keep the knees on the floor, extending out through the soles of the feet as if you were doing the full expression of the pose. (Level 2)



When we move into our downdog, you may "roll over" the toes if your feet permit, flex both feet at the same time to bring soles and toes back to the mat, or flip one at a time. Again, this is personal preference. The important thing is to work toward the roll over and be consistent.

Exhale - lift UP through the hips to move into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog) Press the thighs toward the back of the room. Keep the hips lifting. Hands are pressing fully and firmly into the mat. Heels are sinking toward the floor. It’s okay if they don’t touch, but don’t stand on your tippy-toes. However, DO NOT MOVE THE HANDS AND FEET. I cannot stress this enough. The hands and feet are our foundation, which was set when we moved into plank position. This foundation, if set correctly, gives us the correct alignment for the entire salutation.

Benefits of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Strengthens the wrists and arms
Develops flexibility in the spine (for all those backbends!)
Stretches chest, shoulders, and abdomen
Reported to help relieve sciatica

Be careful if you have issues with carpel tunnel or are pregnant.

My hope as we move into summer is to be able to provide some better pictures! It’s hard to take pictures when it’s cold and snowy. For now, pictures are from YogaJournal.com.

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