This week, we return to the Yoga in Sanskrit. Let's explore upward facing dog, or Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (erd-vah moo-kah shvah-nah-sah-nah) and its cousin, Bhujangasana (boo-jahn-gah-sah-nah), or cobra pose.
Upward facing dog usually follows low push-up in the sun salutation sequences. It is a backbend and chest opener which invigorates and energizes the core of the body, encourages extension through the neck and chest, while warming the arms and grounding the hands.
Lower the chest back down to the floor, or tuck your toes and press the hips up to downward facing dog. Repeat as necessary. Take child's pose or forward fold to counter the backbend.
Upward facing dog is a back bend and heart opener. These kind of poses tend to increase energy when you're feeling sluggish. Opening the chest in this vulnerable position promotes openness to new ideas and tolerance of others. Think of it as the opposite of arms crossed over the chest, a position we sometimes take when scared, unsure, or dissatisfied with a situation. The depth of the breath will enhance these effects, so be sure to take deep breaths once your in the posture. Rotating the shoulders back and down away from the ears frees the neck to release tension and irritability. This pose creates mobility in the lower back and stretches the abdominal muscles, which strengthens awareness of the core of the body. Awareness of the core body can impact the depth of breath, release anxiety, and promote emotional strength and resilience when practiced regularly.
Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez, Counselor and yoga teacher specializing in mental health, substance abuse and wellness.