How To Do Upward Facing Dog Pose: Everything You Need To Know To Do It Safely and Correctly

Upward Facing Dog Yoga Pose


Here are some of the reasons why Downward Dog is good for you:

  • Stretches the chest and front of the shoulders alleviating upper back and shoulder pain/discomfort
  • Lengthens and strengthens the entire spinal column
  • Strengthens the arms, wrists and hands
  • Strengthens the glutes, legs, ankles and feet
  • Stimulates blood circulation in the abdominal cavity, specifically the digestion organs
  • Stretches the abdominals, psoas muscles, hip flexors, and all of the muscles of the front of the body used for stabilization and forward bending
Pose Guide: Updog Yoga Pose

Pose Guide

In order to do Downward Dog correctly, follow these steps:

  • Begin on all fours, supported by hands and feet.
  • Place hands directly under shoulders, with palms flat against the ground and fingers facing away from the knees. The middle fingers will be pointing toward the top of the mat.
  • Place the knees beneath the hips, with the feet directly behind the knees. Let the feet be relaxed so that they are resting with the tops of the feet against the ground.
  • Shift your weight forward, drop your belly and arch your back. Keep your thighs hovering just above the ground.
  • Activate your palms against the ground while squeezing your elbows in toward your body for support.
  • Lower your shoulders down and away from your ears. 
  • Draw your shoulders back and away from each other to open up the chest.
  • Lift the crown (top) of your head while lengthening the back of your neck.
  • Press the tops of the feet against the ground for additional support while activating the glutes to stabilize the pelvis.

Practical Tips

Don’ts—Common mistakes beginners make in upward facing dog yoga

  • Torquing the neck: One common mistake beginners make in Upward Facing Dog is to tilt the neck to lift the chin to the sky. This compresses the bones in the back of the neck causing muscle tension and possible nerve impingement. The correct form is to keep the back of the neck elongated and the chin parallel with the ground as you raise the crown (top) of your head toward the sky.
  • Shrugged shoulders: It’s also common to see the shoulders shrugging up around the ears during this pose. Instead, lower the shoulders away from the ears while moving your shoulder blades down your back. Lift with your spine rather than your shoulders.
  • Compressing the low back: If you are feeling pinching or strain in your low back during this posture, you may be compressing your low back by arching too much. Tuck your tailbone under slightly to flatten your low back. Engage your core by bringing your belly button in toward your spine and slightly up toward your ribs to provide support during this spinal extension.
  • Taking shoulders too far forward: Be cautious not to bring your shoulders too far forward. This is another common mistake that can cause more harm than good. Having the shoulders too far forward puts unnecessary strain on the wrists and elbows. Align your shoulders directly over your wrists, or even a little behind them if your wrists are weak or have been previously injured.
  • Bringing the shoulder blades too close together: It’s common in Upward Facing Dog to pinch the shoulder blades together. This creates unnecessary strain and discomfort in the upper back and shoulder girdle. Instead, actively shift the shoulder blades away from each other, flattening the space between them to create a more stable and aligned upper back.

Props and Modifications

You should consider a modification if you experience the following:

  • Pain or restriction in the hands/wrists
  • Discomfort along the tops of the feet/ankles
  • Back pain or restriction, particularly in the low back

Pain or restriction in the hands/wrists:

  • Upward Facing Dog can be modified for sensitive or injured wrists by dropping the elbows and forearms to the floor. (This is known as Sphinx Pose.)
Pain or restriction in the hands/wrists
  • For sensitive wrists, using blocks can be helpful. Place each palm flat on a block with your fingers folded down the front of the block. This alleviates strain on the wrist.  Adjust the height of the block to your preference. The shorter the block, the more stable it will be. Make sure to keep your shoulders directly over your wrists, or even a little behind them, to avoid tipping the blocks.
For sensitive wrists, using blocks can be helpful when doing updog yoga pose

Discomfort along the tops of the feet/ankles:

  • Allowing your thighs to rest on the ground (in Cobra Pose) can take some of the strain off the feet and ankles.
Discomfort along the tops of the feet/ankles
  • Alternatively, you can place a folded blanket or rolled towel under your ankles.

Back pain or restriction, particularly in the low back:

  • Bend the elbows to decrease the intensity of the backbend, alleviating strain in the back.
  • Conversely, you can do this pose on elbows and forearms (also called Sphinx Pose) to accommodate more severe spinal limitations.
  • Using a bolster or rolled blanket placed horizontally under your thighs can create some height which decreases the severity of the backbend.
  • Place a bolster under the belly (extending lengthwise beneath the trunk) to provide support and elevation for the pelvis.
  • Placing hands on blocks creates more space for the spine to expand, and can be helpful for those with shorter arms and/or a longer torso.
Back pain or restriction, particularly in the low back

Commonly Asked Questions

  • What muscles does Upward Facing Dog work?
  • What is the difference between Upward Facing Dog and Cobra Pose?
  • When is Upward Facing Dog contraindicated?

What muscles does Upward Facing Dog work?

  • Stretches the entire front of the body
  • Strengthens all the muscles that attach to the spine
  • Strengthens muscles of the hands, arms and shoulders
  • Tones and elongates the abdominals
  • Strengthens the glutes

What is the difference between Upward Facing Dog and Cobra Pose?

  • In Upward Facing Dog, the pelvis, thighs and knees are elevated off the ground. In Cobra Pose, the pelvis, thighs and knees are resting on the ground.

When is Upward Facing Dog contraindicated?

  • Overly tight or injured wrists/hands, including advanced carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Acute back injury, such as a slipped or herniated disc
  • Pregnancy in the second or third trimester
  • Recent abdominal injury or surgery

Additional Resources For Beginners

Beginner Yoga Workouts –
Yoga For Beginners Guide –
Yoga For Back Pain –

Related Articles

Yoga For Beginners

Hatha vs Power yoga

We’ve created our own unique style of slow burn power yoga that combines Hatha yoga, power yoga, bodyweight exercises and physical therapy. This way in

Read More »


We want to keep you safe!

Please consult your physician, assess your fitness level, and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program, nutrition plan, and/or using any equipment.

Body By Yoga provides a variety of exercise programs, some of which are physically demanding and high-intensity in nature. For this reason, you must listen to your body, use common sense, take breaks, and hydrate as needed to avoid injury. If at any time you feel any discomfort, pain, dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or nausea, stop exercising immediately and consult your physician. Incorrect or excessive training can result in serious injury or death.

When doing any outdoor workouts or activities, be aware of your surroundings and avoid anything that could hurt you or disrupt your exercise, especially when walking or running in public areas such as sidewalks and streets.

If you have any unique or special medical conditions, such as if you’re pregnant, have diabetes or asthma, or if you have a history of knee, ankle, hip, shoulder or spinal (back or neck) problems, you must consult your physician to understand all potential risks and complications of using our exercise programs, nutrition plans, and/or equipment, and receive approval from them to proceed before beginning. Failure to do so could result in significant injury to you and others (including, if applicable, your unborn child). By engaging in any exercise program, nutrition plan, and/or using any equipment, you assume all dangers, hazards and risks of injury or death.



Certain programs may utilize equipment, such as yoga mats, yoga blocks, yoga straps, chairs, foam rollers, and other equipment which, if not used correctly, could lead to serious injury or death. Carefully review all safety, care and use instructions and manuals prior to beginning.

For your safety, you must:

Use any equipment shown in the workouts only as demonstrated, using proper form.
Inspect any equipment for wear or damage prior to each use and refrain from using any equipment that appears damaged, worn or defective.
Keep children, pets and any other obstacles away from equipment and exercise area at all times.
Always use a secure, proper, and stable anchor for any equipment that requires hanging or attaching.
Always exercise caution during use of any equipment to make sure you do not lose your grip or control, such as making sure your hands are not wet or sweaty.
Ensure exercise bands are firmly secure and assembled to prevent slipping, snapping, recoiling and injury to yourself or anyone else.
Ensure your workout bench and pull up bar is stable, strong enough to hold your weight and does not move during use. If you do not think you can safely perform exercises with your bench or pull up bar, or you do not have the proper equipment, you should do the modifier exercises instead.

To the fullest extent permitted by law, Body By Yoga and its parent, affiliate, and subsidiary companies will not be liable to any person or entity for any injury, death, damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by any exercise programs, workouts, nutritional supplements or plans, equipment (including without limitation the Body By Yoga mat and Body By Yoga blocks), advice or any other products, services or materials.

By checking the box and clicking “Accept”, I acknowledge I have read, understand, and agree with this warning.