As the weather begins to cool, we develop a natural tendency to retreat inwards, to stay indoors, to become a little more reclusive. This month’s Zamasana, Ūrdhva mukha śvānāsana (upward facing dog), is an extroverted, energising posture that can help balance out our more introverted practices.
Upward facing dog is a powerful back bend that opens through the heart-space, while strengthening the spine, wrists, arms, and legs. It’s a fantastic remedy to ‘office slump’, the forward-folding position many of us end up in after hours of working at the computer or driving long distances. Sitting with a rounded spine for long periods of time can overstretch our back muscles and reduce strength in our abdominal muscles. Back bends such as upward facing dog are critical in keeping our spine healthy and our core strong.
How to practice Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
1. Lie on your stomach, with your legs outstretched and the tops of your feet on the mat. Bend through your elbows. Plant the palms of your hands on the floor beside your waist. Your forearms should be just about perpendicular to the ground.
2. Engage your belly, drawing the navel gently toward the spine. Press your palms firmly into the mat. Pull back through your hands, as if you were trying to pull the mat behind you. On your next inhale, straighten your arms. Lift your upper body, hips, and legs off the floor. Activate through the thighs, turning them slightly inward, and through the arms, drawing the elbows down away from the ears.
3. Draw the pelvis forward and toward the navel. Lift through the chest without forcing the ribs forward. Keep the gaze straight ahead or slightly upward. Avoid tipping the head back completely.
4. Hold for 1-5 breaths before releasing to the ground, or tucking the toes and pressing back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog).