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Upward-Facing Dog Pose
(Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

With Dr Kiki Morriss

Upward-Facing Dog Pose is a back bending position that requires considerable strength from your legs and arms. It gives a strong stretch to the front of your body, opens your chest and improves the flexibility of your spine.

Moving into the pose

  • Start in a prone position with your legs straight and the tops of your feet resting on your mat.
  • Bend your elbows and place your hands on the ground on either side of your upper body, so they are about halfway down your ribcage.
  • Push into your hands, straighten your arms and lift your legs and the front of your hips off the ground.
  • Keep the tops of your feet on the mat.
  • Lift your chest and arch back.

Focus your gaze

  • Your focal point (drishti) is your nose or your third eye. If you prefer, gaze at a fixed point straight ahead of you, or close your eyes and draw your focus inwards.

Head & Face

  • Lift your chin and take your head back.
  • Avoid constricting the back of your neck or straining your throat.
  • Keep the back of your neck long.
  • Soften your face and your jaw.
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Arms & Hands

  • Press down through your hands and push the floor away from you.
  • Engage your triceps to straighten your elbows.
  • Keep your arms strong and engaged. Avoid hanging from your shoulders.


  • Roll your shoulders back and down.
  • Draw your shoulder blades down your back.


  • Open your chest.
  • Broaden across your collarbones.
  • Lift your sternum and the top of your ribs.


  • Use your rhomboids to draw your shoulder blades towards the midline.
  • Engage your erector spinae to extend your spine.
  • Use your gluteus maximus and gluteus medius to extend your hips and thighs.
Upward-facing Dog

Feet & Legs

  • Position your feet no more than hip-width apart to avoid stress on your lower back.
  • Press your feet onto your mat, and keep your legs strong and engaged.
  • Use your quadriceps to extend your knees.
  • Press down through your big toes and your little toes.
  • Avoid allowing the legs to roll inwards by lifting your inner legs and be on the centre of the tops of your feet.

Practicing Upward-Facing Dog Pose

  • Use Child's Pose as a counter-pose after practicing Upward-Facing Dog Pose.
  • Combine Upward-Facing Dog Pose with Downward-Facing Dog Pose, alternating the poses from one to the other. Practice rolling your feet over your toes, from one pose to the other.
  • Then insert Chaturanga Dandasana into the sequence.


  • Stretches the front of your body – chest, shoulders, abdomen and front of hips.
  • Strengthens the legs and arms.
  • Improves posture.
  • Increases flexibility of the spine.
  • Focuses the mind.

Modifications and contraindications

  • If it is too challenging to lift your legs and hips off the floor, try placing a cushion or rolled up blanket under the tops of your thighs. This will help to support your lower back.
  • To get a better lift, try placing your hands on yoga blocks.
  • Avoid this pose if you have a wrist or back injury.
  • Increases flexibility of the spine.
  • Focuses the mind.

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: or

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