The Anatomy of Urdha Mukha Svanasana

Urdha = upward
Mukha = facing
Svanasana = dog pose

This backbend pose works to a great extend on the arms and shoulders strength. It requires the engagement of the hip flexor, gluteus, pelvic floor muscles, psoas, abdominal muscles, triceps and biceps.

This pose is similar to Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). The only difference being, that in Cobra Pose the entire lower body touches the floor making a deep back bend and in Upward Facing Dog Pose the lower body from the hips to the ankles are just above the floor and does not touch the floor. Hence the strength of the arms and the shoulders are put to test. In particular, the scapular (and its joints) and rotator cuff muscles in the upper limbs are crucial in the pose.

The scapular consists of an important joint, the glenohumeral joint, to hold the pose. This joint is highly mobile, enabling shoulder rotation in Urdha Mukha Savanasana. However, it is unstable.  The stabilisation of the shoulder is provided collectively together with the rotator cuff muscles. As the chest and shoulders is opened for movement and breath, the infraspinatus and teres minor are engaged. These muscles help with alignment and stability for the shoulders and their weight bearing function enables lateral rotation of arms to open the chest.

Hence, these muscles maintain stability throughout the shape of the posture. The engagement of the rotator calf muscles as it helps prevent the falling of chest through the shoulders. Moreover, with strong rotator cuff muscles, one can experience a deeper stretch the abdominals, chest, and shoulders. The arms and the posterior chain of the body are strengthened, particularly the spinal erectors that help with maintaining good posture.

There is great importance in understand the anatomy which hold up this pose. Without our muscular and skeletal system, a practitioner may end up bearing a sheer amount of weight on their upper limb and potentially cause strain on their wrist.