This week we’re exploring another heart opener that can be used in place on Cobra Pose in your Sun Salutations, if you’re looking for a different stretch. It’s one of my favorite postures to open the heart, the throat, and the hips, and it’ usually my preference when moving through sun salutations. However, when I think back to my early days of yoga, I recall feeling lots of pressure in the shoulders in this pose, so it’s important to practice with the correct energetic actions. Without further ado, I present to you the Upward Facing Dog Tutorial!
Getting into the pose:
Start laying flat on your stomach with the palms under the shoulders as though you are prepping for Cobra Pose. Draw the elbows in close to the side ribs and draw the shoulders back, allowing the heart to open and the shoulder blades to fall down the back ribs.
Draw the legs together and press the tops of the feet down so that the legs engage and the knees if up off the floor.
Lift the gaze and broaden across the collarbones but drawing the elbows actively back as you lift into Cobra Pose.
From here, keep the legs activated imagine the tail bone reaching back and down to encourage length in the low back. Then begin to straighten through the arms so that the thighs lift up off the ground. Stay here and breathe deeply into the chest, keeping the sides of the neck lengthening, and pressing firmly into the ground with the palms in order to rebound higher lifting out of the shoulder socket.
Lift the gaze to bring the back bend up all the way through the cervical spine. If you experience any neck, pain, however, keep the chin just slightly tucked instead
Cobra is a great alternative to Upward facing dog, since it’s easier to control the depth of the back bend there. So never hesitate to take cobra instead of Upward facing dog if it feels better on your body.
Tips, Tricks, and Modifications:
When you’re working in any kind of back bend, always take it slow and listen very closely to your body. If you hit the pain zone, you’ve gone too far, so just ease off a bit.
If you feel pressure or discomfort in the wrists, focus more on evenly spreading the weight of the body out through the entire palm and finger tips. Often we just let the weight settle into the heel of the hand, causing undue pressure in the wrist.
If your wrists feel fatigued after this pose, take the time to stretch! Make circles with the wrists or rest the tops of the hands down on the floor with the fingers towards to release tension.
If you feel any discomfort in the shoulders, you likely are just settling into the sockets rather that actively lifting. Actively draw the shoulders down away from the ears, so that you feel the shoulders and arms working.
If you get any pinching in the low back in this pose, please don’t push it – take cobra instead. Never sacrifice the safety of your body to ‘achieve’ a pose. After all, it’s just a pose. 🙂