Upward-Facing Dog Pose is a dynamic, open-hearted back bend that's safe for beginners but also continues to reward you during years of practice. It strengthens the buttocks and lower back, opens the entire length of the spine while toning the paraspinal muscles, opens the heart, expands the lungs, and energizes the nervous system. If you're feeling tired or depressed, it's a great way to infuse yourself with the joy of being alive.

Lie on your belly with your toes pointing backward and your palms on the floor under your shoulders, elbows bent and fingers pointing straight forward [Figure 1]. On an inhalation, press firmly into the hands, straighten the arms, and lift the chest up and forward. Allow the lifting of the heart and belly to lift the pelvis and legs as well, so that the only point of contact with the ground are the palms and the tops of the feet. Keep the buttocks and legs firm and energized [Figure 2].

Take several breaths here, keeping the chest and heart area open and the back of the neck relaxed. Be sure that your shoulders are dropping away from your ears, not hunching up around your neck. Feel your shoulder blades drawing into your back, and your vertebrae lengthening away from each other into an even arc.

If your upper back and neck are especially open, you can try dropping your head back to open the chest still further [Figure 3]. However, if this gesture crunches the neck or constricts the breath, simply continue to gaze straight forward. If you find that the legs sag toward the floor, you might want to try a variation with the toes tucked under [Figure 4].

Hold the pose for 10 to 15 long, even breaths, feeling and celebrating the sensations that pulse through the heart, pelvis, and spine. Then slowly release back to the floor [Figure 5].

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