Upward Facing Dog Pose - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Upward Facing Dog Pose (front) - Ina Varshavska


Upward Facing Dog Pose or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit (‘urdhva’ = ‘ ‘upward’, ‘mukha’ = ‘face’ and ‘svan’ = ‘dog’ ‘asana’= ‘pose’).is a backbend pose that stretches the chest, shoulders, and spine, while also strengthening the arms, wrists, and back muscles.

Upward Facing Dog Pose pose is similar to Bhujangasana or the Cobra Pose, the only difference being, that in Cobra Pose the entire lower body touches the floor making a deep backbend and in Upward Facing Dog Pose the lower body from hips to ankles is just above the floor. Therefore, the strength of the arms and shoulders is really important in this position.

Upward-Facing Dog Pose is considered a base pose for upward-facing dog pose variations. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana helps boost energy in the body and hence can be included in different yoga sequences.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1
Start by lying belly-down with the arms along side the body, the legs extended behind you and hips distance. Tops of the feet are on the earth. Place your hands, with the fingers spread wide next to your lower ribs. Your fingertips should be inline with your nipples. Elbows are directly above your wrists and are hugging the ribcage.
Step 2
On an inhale, engage the core, press the palms of your hands firmly into the earth and straighten your arms, lifting the chest and legs off the earth. Be sure not to lock the elbows here by keeping a microbend in them. Press the tops of the feet into the earth to keep your legs engaged and lifted off the earth
Step 3
Broaden the collarbones. Draw the shoulders away from the ears as you lift your chest and heart towards the sky. Elbow creases face forward. The backbend should be focused in the thoracic spine, the area behind the heart. Make sure not to dump in the lower back.
Step 4
Your gaze can be forward or upwards. Be sure not to crunch the back of the neck. To release, gently lower back down onto your belly, re-extend your arms along side your body, turn the head to either side and bring your cheek to rest on the earth.

Benefits and Contraindications


Improves posture

Stimulates abdominal organs

Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica

Therapeutic for asthma

Firms the buttocks

Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen

Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists


Back injury

Carpal tunnel syndrome



Photo poses in different angles

Modifications and Props For Beginners

  • Blocks under hands: Placing yoga blocks under your hands can help make Upward Facing Dog Pose more accessible for beginners who may not have the strength or flexibility to fully lift their chest off the mat. Start by placing a block on either side of your mat at the highest height, then place your hands on the blocks as you lift your chest.
  • Blanket under thighs: Placing a folded blanket under your thighs can help support your lower back and make Upward Facing Dog Pose more comfortable for beginners. Simply place the blanket under your thighs before you lift your chest off the mat.

Beginners' Tips

  • Press up actively from the palms, drawing the shoulders away from the ears to keep yourself from hanging in the pose.
  • Draw the chest forward through the arms, moving the shoulder blades towards the tailbone.
  • Keep your legs active, ensuring that the knees stay off the ground.
  • Start with Cobra pose and move into Upward Facing Dog once you’re ready.
  • Look upwards only if you can do so while keeping length in your neck.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Upward Facing Dog a beginner-friendly pose?

While Upward Facing Dog is a common pose in many yoga classes, it is not necessarily a beginner-friendly pose. It requires a certain amount of strength in the arms, shoulders, and back to perform safely and effectively. It’s important to practice proper alignment and start with modifications or variations if needed.

Can Upward Facing Dog help with back pain?

Yes, Upward Facing Dog can help alleviate back pain by stretching and strengthening the muscles of the back, chest, and shoulders. However, if you have a serious back injury or condition, it’s important to check with your healthcare provider before attempting this pose.

What are some common mistakes in Upward Facing Dog?

Some common mistakes in Upward Facing Dog include collapsing the shoulders, allowing the elbows to splay out to the sides, overextending the neck, and compressing the lower back. It’s important to keep the shoulders rolled back and down, the elbows hugged in, and the neck long and relaxed.

What are some modifications for Upward Facing Dog?

If you’re not quite ready for the full expression of Upward Facing Dog, you can try modifications such as Cobra pose or Sphinx pose. You can also use props like blocks or blankets to support your hands and chest.

When should I avoid Upward Facing Dog?

You should avoid Upward Facing Dog if you have a wrist injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other condition that affects your ability to bear weight on your hands. It’s also not recommended if you have a serious back injury or condition that is aggravated by backbending.


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Iana Varshavska
Iana Varshavska
Website administrator

A digital marketer in love with yoga and everything that goes along with it. In 2021, her huge passion for yoga led her to yoga teacher trainings. After successfully completing her studies, Iana received her Yoga Alliance U.S. certification, left the corporate IT world and devoted herself to the development of Yanva. To be able to create the best online yoga space for yoga enthusiasts like her, Iana is constantly learning and improving her skills in various aspects of yoga philosophy, anatomy and biomechanics. Since 2021, she has continued to attend various types of teacher training, including yoga therapy, gives online and offline classes, and conducts local workshops for people who want to learn more about yoga. At the moment, Iana continues to work on her personal practice, improving her hand balancing skills, as well as developing her own training programs.