Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
with Chrisandra Fox Walker
One translation of the word tantra is “to expand (tan)” and “to protect or to free from sorrow” (tra). The tools of tantra, such as asana, pranayama and meditation practices are designed to help us grow and expand to our fullest potential while enjoying our lives on this planet.
This month, explore the power of expansion by activating prana in Upward-facing Dog Pose. Prana is the master guiding intelligence that is the force behind movement, expansion and adaptability. We’ll cultivate stability in the arms and the legs to both protect and liberate the spine as we explore this pranic energy that rides on the thread of the breath and expands the mind.
While Upward-Facing Dog is often practiced as a vinyasa, preceded by Chaturanga Dandasana and followed by Adho Mukha Svanasana, try practicing it as a longer-held pose to strengthen the arms, legs and spinal muscles, increase mobility of the spine, open the chest and enjoy the expansive quality of your life force.
Lie on your belly and stretch your legs back, positioning your feet about the width of your hips. Place your hands alongside your waist. Spread your fingers wide and root through the base of your thumb and index finger.
On an inhalation, straighten your arms, press into the tops of your feet, and lift your thighs and pelvis off the floor. Stack your shoulders above your wrists and balance your weight on the tops of your feet.
Spread your toes and lift your inner thighs towards the sky, activating the power of your legs. Soften your tail towards your pubis and lift the fronts of your hips up to create more length in the hip flexors.
Explore the foundation in your hands, arms and shoulders by hugging your forearms in towards one another and being sensitive to the weight grounding through your forearm bones.
As you inhale, feel the whole spine lengthen and your collar bones widen. As you exhale, turn your navel toward your spine and hold the mind in the quality of expansion. Again, as you inhale, feel the expansion of prana, riding along the wave of the breath, circulating through the chest and heart center. As you exhale, maintain the tone through the navel center and hold the mind stable, delighting in this expansion.
You can draw your head back, but be careful not to collapse through the base of your neck. Instead, draw your shoulder blades firmly on your back, lift your chin and open the front of your neck while keeping space through the back of your neck free.
To come out, curl your toes under and lower down onto your belly to release your efforts and enjoy the taste of growth.
Chrisandra Fox Walker teaches 4 weekly classes at Yoga Tree and is a core teacher in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training Program. She leads the Heart of Renewal Retreats. Email Chrisandra@gmail.com
Photography by Jasper Trout; Trout Farm Photography