yoga_360

A 360º overview of...

Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) & Cobra (Bhujangasana)

With Dr Kiki Morriss

Throughout 2022, OM is exploring all the key poses that make up the Sun Salutation, yoga’s most familiar and graceful sequence. By Dr Kiki Morriss

Sun Salutation 2022

Welcome back to the Anatomy Academy. This month we are looking in depth at the sixth pose of the Sun Salutation sequence – you have a choice between Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) or Cobra (Bhujangasana).

Upward-Facing Dog is a strong backbend requiring considerable arm and leg strength, whereas Cobra is a gentler backbend.

UPWARD-FACING DOG

(Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Urdhva = Upward Mukha = Face
Svan = Dog Asana = Posture

MOVING INTO THE POSE

1. Start in Mountain Pose.

2. Inhale and lift your arms into Upward Salute Pose.

3. Exhale and fold at your hips into Standing Forward Bend Pose.

4. Step your right foot back and lower your right knee to the ground into Low Lunge Pose.

5. Step back into Four Limb Staff Pose. Alternatively you can step back into Plank Pose or jump back from Standing Forward Bend Pose into Four Limb Staff Pose.

6. From Four Limb Staff Pose move into Upward-Facing Dog Pose by pressing the tops of your feet & the palms of your hands on the floor and arching back. Or from Plank Pose lower onto your knees & chest and then lift your head and chest into Cobra Pose.

FOCUS YOUR GAZE

  • Your focal point (drishti) is at your nose or at a fixed point straight ahead of you. Alternatively close your eyes and draw your focus inwards.
  • Hold your chin slightly above parallel to the ground and lift upwards through the crown of your head.

ARMS & SHOULDERS

Contract your triceps to straighten your elbows.

Use your infraspinatus and teres minor muscles of the rotator cuff to externally rotate your shoulders.

Move your shoulder blades together and down your back, by activating your rhomboids and the lower third of your trapezius.

CHEST

  • Use your pectoralis major to lift your ribcage upwards.
  • Use your serratus anterior to expand your chest outwards.

HIPS & LEGS

  • Use your gluteus maximus to extend your hips.
  • Use your adductor magnus to extend your hips and bring your legs together.
  • Contract your quadriceps to extend your knees.

BACK

  • Activate your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum to extend your spine.

BENEFITS

  • Stretches the shoulders, chest, abdomen and the front of the hips.
  • Strengthens the arms, legs and back.
  • Improves spinal flexibility.
  • Improves posture.

MODIFICATIONS

  • Place your hands on a yoga block/brick for a better lift.
  • Place a rolled up blanket under the tops of your thighs. This will make it easier to lift your hips & legs off the ground, and will support your lower back.

CONTRAINDICATIONS

  • Avoid this pose if you have a back or wrist injury/issue.

COBRA

(Bhujangasana)
Bhujanga = Snake/Serpent
Asana = Posture

FOCUS YOUR GAZE

  • Your focal point (drishti) is at your nose or at a fixed point straight ahead of you. Alternatively close your eyes and draw your focus inwards.
  • Hold your chin parallel to the ground and keep the back of your neck long.

ARMS & SHOULDERS

  • Place your hands on the ground on either side of your chest with your fingers facing forwards.
  • Avoid putting weight on your hands.
  • Move your shoulder blades down your back, by activating the lower third of your trapezius.

CHEST

  • Lift your chest upwards by leading with your sternum (breastbone).

LEGS

  • Use your adductor magnus to bring your legs together.
  • Contract your quadriceps to extend your knees and straighten your legs.

BACK

  • Activate your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum to extend your spine.

BENEFITS

  • Stretches the chest and abdomen
  • Strengthens the legs and back.
  • Improves spinal flexibility.
  • Improves posture.

CONTRAINDICATIONS

  • Practice this pose under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor, if you have a back or wrist injury/issue.
UPWARD-FACING DOG

Doctor Kiki Morriss is a medical doctor, yoga teacher, yoga therapist and founder of Primrose Hill Yoga, where she teaches adults, children and families. Visit: primrosehillyoga.com or instagram.com/kiki.yoga

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.