Upward Facing Dog
A Juicy Airway Opener
Welcome to week three of the travel yoga pose breakdown, inspired by 5 Best Travel Yoga Poses You can do (Practically) Anywhere to Energize.
As we’ve mentioned, even the most well-seasoned yogi(ni)’s can feel a bit… awkward… when taking their practice off of the mat and into public settings. For many people, there’s something deeply intimate about a yoga practice. There’s also a pretty big difference between practicing yoga in an established group setting (i.e. yoga studio, gym, etc.) versus any ol’ public place (i.e. the airport terminal or lobby of your hotel and other travel yoga locations).
All five poses are versatile (modify and alter as necessary), accessible (whether you’ve been practicing yoga or not!), and relatively discrete (can be done in various outfits and in numerous settings). They’re perfect for a travel yoga practice. However, we recommend practicing these shapes initially at home or in a studio setting before taking them to the streets.
Listen to your body—if a shape doesn’t feel good (pain is a different sensation then a releasing stretch), don’t do it. And as always, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting any new exercise routine.
If you’re a curious adventurer, looking for your next immersion and opportunity to practice travel yoga, join us in our upcoming retreat to Dominical, Costa Rica! Learn more about the beautiful beach town of Dominical here.
Upward Facing Dog: Travel Yoga Pose #3
Upward facing dog is a juicy , belly-down spinal lengthening posture that also opens the chest and stretches the abdominal muscles. This posture is integral in movement-based yoga classes that incorporate chaturanga dandasana (a tricep pushup)—it directly proceeds the tricep pushup, and precedes downward-facing dog.
Upward Facing Dog
Lie on your belly with your feet hip-width apart and plant your palms underneath your shoulders. On an inhale, press into your hands to straighten your arms and lift your upper body. Ground through the tops of your feet as well, but lift your knees and thighs off of the ground. Roll your shoulder heads back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and down, and lift your chest through your arms. Breathe steadily and evenly through your nose for 5-15 breaths.
It’s possible that any excessive pressure you’re feeling on your wrists can be countered by redistributing your weight to your palms and fingers. Spread your fingers wide and ground through the outer edges of your palms as well as your finger pads. At the same time, imagine your torso lifting skyward and forward. If you feel pain in your wrists, you may have to build up to this posture by practicing wrist-strengthening exercises. If this is the case, you can start with cobra (under Modify).
This posture is relatively “easy” but it still requires some muscular engagement (especially initially) to properly pull off. While you won’t likely feel pain in your shoulders, you may notice a tendency to “collapse” in this area—similar to a shrug. Over time, this puts a lot of strain on your rotator cuffs, neck, wrists, and low back. Similar to troubleshooting wrist pain, press into your hands and lift your torso skyward and forward.
As noted in shoulders, low back pain may come from a “lazy” up-dog. Hanging out in this pose, without engaging, puts an extra load on your low back. If the correction for shoulders doesn’t help, be sure that your knees and thighs are lifted. If they are, you may have to take this backbend slower. Either start with cobra or literally take the action from lying on your belly to up-dog more slowly. If you opt for the latter option, focus on maintaining a long spine every step of the way, from belly to your expression of the pose.
Where you set your gaze for this pose will depend heavily on your depth of backbend. The important thing is to maintain your neck as an extension of your spine, or as some teachers say, retain your neck in a neutral position. Notice if you’re crunching at the back of your neck and if you are, re-straighten your head and lift up rather than cocking back. The same goes for your throat side—float your chin away from your chest.
- As a backbend, it’s an inherently energizing posture
- Increases lung capacity
- Strengthens and stretches your spine (posterior and anterior sides, accordingly)
- Strengthens your wrists
- Opens your throat chakra
- Lightly massages your internal organs
Cobra is a great starter-pose before tackling deeper backbends. You’ll start out similarly, on your belly with your palms planted underneath your shoulders but, dissimilarly, the insides of your feet (big toes through ankle bones) should touch. Then on an inhale, instead of pressing into your palms to straighten your arms, you’ll keep your elbows bent and either lightly lift your hands from the ground (to increase back strength) or pull your hands towards your body (to further aid in lengthening the spine). Your feet, knees, and thighs will all remain grounded.
You’ll need a bit more room for this amplifier. There are various acceptable arm variations—you can reach forward/overhead, out to the sides (like a T), or back with your arms alongside your body. In each of these expressions, your palms will face down. Feel free to start with your feet hip-width, but eventually you’ll touch your big toes together. On an inhale, lift all four of your limbs off the ground. Feel similar length in your spine as you felt in upward facing dog. Reach through your toes and the top of your head. For even more variations, see this awesome post by April Saunders on DoYouYoga.
What are your favorite travel yoga poses? We’re always looking to improve and revise content. Comment below or tag us on social media with your favorite travel yoga poses to energize.