I was reminded yet again of one of the many reasons I love yoga in my morning practice today – never ending learning! As I was flipping my feet from Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), I caught a cue to “roll my heels toward each other” that I had never heard before. Instantly I felt compression taken off my back that I had been recently noticing lingering in this pose more often than ever.
Rolling the heels inward really draws everything in to the center line which is key in upward dog. Typically I focus my attention on opening my chest and sinking my hips towards the ground (while keeping the legs energized and strong) which, isn’t a bad thing at all since the goal is to extend through the thoracic spine. But, with any back bend, you have to watch the pressure on the cervical and lumbar spine. Keeping in mind the concentric work here is key!
To be clear, I’m totally not saying that all of the teachers I’ve been to previously have been cuing upward dog wrong this whole time. That is the beauty of practicing yoga, it is one continuous practice. You will not get the same thing from every practice and certainly will learn new things with each new teacher you practice with! I’ve been practicing for 9 years now and still am continuously coming into new sensations and realizations, clearly.
I was doing one of Fiji McAlpine’s online classes on Do Yoga With Me when I heard her cue the concentric heel roll. Link to the video here! [Side note, I highly recommend this site for good free yoga videos. They have all levels and class lengths so it is virtually perfect for anyone and everyone! The class I linked to is an hour long sweaty power yoga flow 🙂 ]
I hope you keep this little inward heel roll in mind for your next yoga session and let me know how it affects you! Below is a little background on the upward-facing dog pose in more detail for anyone interested. Enjoy!
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward Facing Dog Pose
OORD-va MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna
urdhva = rising or tending upward, raised, elevated
mukha = face
shvana = dog
A symmetrical backward-bending arm support pose which is the counter pose to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).