Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward-facing dog pose)
This back-bending pose, resembling a dog stretching in the morning, strengthens the back and creates freedom of movement in the spine. Attention should be given to ensure evenness in the back arch so that you do not simply bend in the flexible areas of the spine (like the lower back). By becoming conscious of the various areas of the spine, practitioners develop concentration and endurance.
This pose is classically done from the floor. However, very few people are capable of bringing the arch into the upper area of the back. By using a chair, we are able to feel all the areas of the spine and bring consciousness and freedom to those otherwise dull parts.
1. Set a chair against a wall.
2. With your hands, hold the sides of the seat with the palms turned out.
3. Press the palms down and walk in toward the chair until your arms are perpendicular to the chair and the shoulders are over the wrists. Straighten the arms.
4. Press the front of the legs up, keep your knees tight and arch the spine as you walk in closer. Extend your feet back one at a time and press them down against the floor. Do not sag into the lower back, but roll the shoulders back so that the shoulder blades move into the back and spread the collar bones. Lift and move your chest forward, through your arms.
MANOA YOGA CENTER
Kim Schaper demonstrates the upward-facing dog pose.
5. Stay in the pose for a few seconds, breathing quietly through your nose as you work to bring an even arch throughout the back. Look up while keeping the lift in your chest. Keep your neck long and eyes soft.
6. To come out of the pose, press your legs back, lift your hips up and walk in toward the chair; stand up using your legs, not your back. Repeat several times, gradually bringing more awareness and pliability into the spine.
Over time and with regular practice, your back muscles will become strong and your spine flexible. While it is typical to have some sensation in the back muscles, persistent discomfort in the back or neck is a sign of faulty practice and you should seek the help of a qualified teacher.
Once you have learned to arch correctly, try placing your hands on a lower height (like wooden blocks), then eventually maintain the even arch with your hands on the floor.
and Shelley Choy
are certified Iyengar Yoga teachers and co-direct the Manoa Yoga Center at Manoa Marketplace. Visit www.manoayoga.com
or call 382-3910. Manoa Yoga Center, the authors and the Star-Bulletin take no responsibility for any injury arising from the practice of these yoga postures. Readers should seek a doctor's approval before commencing this yoga practice.