Urdhva means "upward," and mukha means "mouth" or "face." Shvan means "dog." Urdhvamukha Shvanasana (pronounced OORD-vah-MOOK-hah shvah-NAH-sahn-ah) looks like a dog stretching upward. (Yoga shows great respect for dog poses—after all, what is "dog" spelled backward?) Upward facing dog is great for a stiff back. It strengthens the spine, alleviates backaches, increases respiration and circulation (especially to the pelvic area), and strengthens the eyes.
The upward facing dog pose.
1. Go into the cobra pose, then inhale further and straighten your arms, keeping your back legs strong (this takes the pressure off your back).
2. Inhale and lift the front of your body off the floor as you look up. Continue to lift so your hips and legs are held just slightly off the floor, too. Your hands and the tops of your feet are the only parts of your body making contact with the floor in this advanced version. Let your arms do much of the work, not just your spine (as in the cobra pose).
3. Exhale as you come back down to the floor.
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