Upward-facing dog, or adho mukha svanasana, is an integral pose in many yoga classes. It’s one of the primary postures in sun salutations, as well as a transition pose that takes you from chaturanga dandasana to downward-facing dog. While it’s a mainstay in so many flows, in my experience as a yoga instructor, this is a pose I often see my students doing incorrectly.
That’s a shame because with all the benefits it can offer, this is a pose you certainly want to get right. Here’s how to do it properly—as demonstrated by certified yoga instructor Juanina Kocher—along with some of my go-to tips and modifications.
How to do upward-facing dog, adho mukha svanasana
- Start by lying on your stomach, flat on your mat.
- With your hands under your shoulders, press through your palms and rise up on an inhale.
- Press the tops of your feet into the mat, lifting your legs completely off the mat.
- The only parts of your body touching the mat are your hands and the tops of your feet.
- Hold for a couple of breaths, then slowly lower back down, or press up to downward-facing dog.
- Be sure to keep your legs very active; otherwise, it can put pressure on the low back.
- Lift the gaze slightly and breathe deep as you open up your chest.
- Be mindful in this posture if you have any wrist or low-back issues.
- Modification: If you’re having difficulty getting your legs off the ground, consider trying cobra pose instead as you build your strength.
- Progression: To make this pose a little more difficult, begin in a high plank and lower yourself halfway down before pressing up to upward-facing dog. (This is your chaturanga!).
This is a great pose for toning both the arms and the legs, when you do it properly. And not only that, but as a backbend, it opens up your chest, as well as your shoulders and upper back. For that reason, this is a fantastic pose for working with your heart chakra.
If you want to try a quick and easy flow that’s sure to get your muscles working, try performing chaturanga from your high plank, inhaling to upward-facing dog, and exhaling to downward-facing dog. From there, you can flow forward back to a high plank and repeat that sequence a few times. In just those three moves, you’ve got a full-body workout.
You’re bound to do upward-facing dog plenty of times throughout your standard vinyasa yoga class, so learning how to do it right is important. And when you do, you’ll undoubtedly see those benefits start to appear.