Upward-Facing Intense West Stretch - Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana

Upward Facing Intense West Stretch - YanvaYoga


Upward-Facing Intense West Stretch or Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana is a yoga pose that combines two Sanskrit words: “Urdhva Mukha” which means “upward facing,” “Paschimottanasana” which means “intense stretch of the west” or “seated forward fold.”
Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana is a great pose for stretching the back, shoulders, and hamstrings. It can also help to stimulate the digestive system and improve posture. It is important to practice this pose with proper alignment and to listen to your body to avoid overstretching or injury.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1
Start by sitting in Dandasana (Staff Pose) and gently lie down on your back.
Step 2
As you inhale, raise your arms overhead.
Step 3
Straighten your legs and lift your hips, bringing your feet towards your hands. Use your palms to grab onto the soles of your feet.
Step 4
Inhale as you straighten your back.
Step 5
Exhale and roll up on your back to balance your body on the sit bones.
Step 6
Find your balance in this position, inhale, and look upwards.
Step 7
As you exhale, move your lower abdomen forward, bringing your torso closer to your legs.
Step 8
Bring your forehead to your knees and then rest your chin on your knees, gazing upwards.
Step 9
Maintain the pose for five breaths.
Step 10
As you inhale, lean slightly away from your legs while still keeping your gaze up.
Step 11
Exhale, release your hands, and bend your legs to reach the floor.
Step 12
Take a deep breath in and relax in the initial position.

Benefits and Contraindications


Stretches the back

Improves digestion

Opens the chest and shoulders

Calms the mind

Improves posture

Increases flexibility

Stimulates the abdominal organs



Back or neck injury

High blood pressure

Herniated disc

Abdominal surgery

Wrist injury

Photo poses in different angles

Modifications and Props for Beginners

  • Use a yoga block: If you have tight hamstrings or lower back pain, place a yoga block under your sitting bones to elevate your hips. This can help to make the pose more comfortable and less intense.
  • Bend your knees: If you are not able to straighten your legs in this pose, you can bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. This can help to take some of the pressure off your lower back and hamstrings.
  • Use a strap: If you are not able to reach your feet with your hands, use a yoga strap to loop around your feet. This can help to lengthen your spine and stretch your hamstrings.
  • Practice against a wall: If you are having difficulty lifting your chest and head off the ground, practice the pose against a wall. Start by placing your hands on the wall, then walk your feet back until your torso is parallel to the ground. Slowly lift your chest and head off the ground, keeping your hands on the wall for support.
  • Use a bolster or blanket: If you have trouble with your upper back rounding, you can use a bolster or blanket to support your upper body. Place the bolster or blanket under your chest and rest your arms on the floor in front of you.

Useful Tips

  • Engage your legs and core: To help support your lower back, engage your leg muscles and draw your navel towards your spine. This can help to protect your lower back and keep your spine lengthened.
  • Focus on your breath: Focusing on your breath can help you to stay calm and centered in the pose.

Upward-Facing Intense West Stretch Anatomy

  • Abdominal Muscles:
    The abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis, external obliques, and internal obliques, are engaged to lift the legs off the ground and hold them in an extended position. These muscles also help to maintain stability and balance in the pose.
  • Hip Flexors:
    The hip flexors, including the psoas major, iliacus, and rectus femoris, are responsible for lifting the legs off the ground and extending them upward. Tight hip flexors can make it difficult to maintain the pose for an extended period.
  • Quadriceps:
    The quadriceps, including the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius, are engaged to lift the legs off the ground and extend them upward. These muscles also help to maintain stability and balance in the pose.
  • Glutes:
    The glutes, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are responsible for stabilizing the hips and maintaining balance in the pose. They also assist in extending the hips and lifting the legs off the ground.
  • Hamstrings:
    The hamstrings, including the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus, are lengthened in the pose to allow for greater flexibility and range of motion in the hips and legs.
  • Spine:
    The spine is elongated in the pose to create space between the vertebrae and improve posture. The erector spinae muscles, which run along the length of the spine, are engaged to maintain the extended position.
  • Shoulders:
    The shoulders are actively pulled away from the ears and engaged to maintain stability in the upper body. The deltoids, trapezius, and rotator cuff muscles are all involved in this movement.
  • Neck:
    The neck is lengthened and the chin is tucked slightly to maintain alignment with the spine. The sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles in the neck are engaged to support the head.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • One-Legged Upward Facing Intense West Stretch
  • Reclining Upward Facing Intense West Stretch
  • Upward Facing Seated Wide Angle Pose

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.