Upward Facing Dog
I love a good, open-hearted Upward Facing Dog pose (UFD). Sanskrit is Urdhva Mukha Svanasana; Urdhva Mukha meaning face upward and svana for dog.
The UFD is also known as a form of the backbend. It is also a part of the Sun Salutations sequence, which is something I always do in my classes. We never skip our Sun Salutations…they really get the blood pumping and bodies sweating, which is exactly what we want to achieve as yogis. Students are always amazed at how much they sweat when doing the salutations, since we are slow moving and flowing in our practice. The answer is all in the breath…breathing in and out the nose is the key. Inhalation and the exhalation only through the nose is your body’s quickest way of heating up. The heat produces sweat which releases toxins in the body allowing stress and sickness to travel out of the body (through sweat).
Photo via Yoga Journal, taken by David Martinez
Photo by Costa Rica Yoga
Photo by Mandy Ingbar
Not only does the breath heat our insides, but it also clears our minds to be open to what is around us, as well as experiencing the present. Have you ever been driving down the road with the windows down to feel the wind and warm sun touching your skin while you think about how everything around you came to be? For me, that is what being in the present means to me…just living at that moment and taking it all in.
When I practice in UFD, here is what I tell myself:
1) Lie down comfortably on my stomach placing my hands flat onto my mat (hands open wide) even with my shoulders, and my feet pressing into the mat. My finger tips look straight ahead.
2) With my elbows sitting closely to my ribs, I begin to press through the hands lifting up my torso. I continue to press the top of my feet towards the mat.
3) As my torso lifts, I begin to press the sitting bones towards the mat pulling the pubic bone through lifting it towards the belly button.
4) Begin to straighten the arms feeling their strength as they begin to lift the lower part of my body (thighs and hips) off of the floor.
5) Pressing the shoulder blades down the spine and open the chest lifting through the top of the sternum. Remember to keep your ribs from pressing out too far.
6) Once in a fully stretched position, lift the chin to towards the sky being careful not to just allow the head to fall back. Be sure and keep shoulders down and ribs in place. Do not overstretch the chin and head.
This open position will stretch my back, core, shoulders, chest while strengthening my arms and lower core.