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Whats Up-Dog?

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

Cobra or Up-Dog? 2 postures which are practiced in nearly every yoga class! Especially when your flowing through sun salutations in a Vinyasa Flow Class.

Even though both cobra & up-dog are backbends & they share some similarities, there are many differences which you should be aware of to practice safely. Avoiding having that half cobra, half up dog variation which i'm gonna nick name cobra-dog!

Yoga is meant to work with your body rather than against it, so it's important to make the right choice for your body at what ever stage of your yoga journey you're at to avoid injuries, particularly the lower back with these 2 shapes.

"I also say with backbends, you have to be cautiously bold. Not carelessly bold. You have to descend to the dictation of the spine. You cannot command from the brain to do the poses. As you play with a child, guarding the child from injuries, similarly you have to play in backbends, guarding your spine" B.K.S. Iyengar

So here are a few tips to help you discover which option is best for you when your on your mat!

Easy Cobra (Salabhasana)

Master your cobra or updog

Easy Cobra is the warm up sequence to having a strong cobra & up-dog. I teach & practice this every time i'm on my yoga mat & it's important to know especially if you have a delicate lower back. Feeling comfortable & strong here will help you along the way into practicing deeper & safer backbends.

  1. Lying on the front of your body, slide your hands underneath your armpits/ inline with your breastbone. Finger tips spread wide into your mat.

  2. Draw your elbows in and back towards the sides of your body so they face up to the ceiling

  3. Press the tops of your feet into the ground & have a slight tone of your legs whilst trying to keep your glutes soft

  4. Pushing your hands firmly into the mat & start to feel your chest lengthen forwards & up, lifting it off the floor, drawing your shoulders away from your ears.

  5. Belly button is attached to your mat

  6. Gaze down, keeping the neck neutral

Choose to stay here if this feels deep enough for you.

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Master your cobra or updog

Full cobra is honestly something i never really touch upon during class but this middle ground is something you may want to explore! (Probably because i feel it leads me to "dump" into my lower back!)

So whats the difference between this & easy cobra? Well you lift higher! Lengthening through the arms as you peel more of your torso of the ground.

Here are some extra tips:

  1. Active your feet & legs even more

  2. Keep your hipbones attached to the mat

  3. Push the ground away & lengthen through your arms until you find your edge

  4. Feel your pelvis move forward towards your hands

  5. Keep your chin down & your gave forward

Here you can explore the depth of your backbend & really enjoy the process of self-discovery within yoga

"It's How We Go Not How Far We Go"

Up- Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Master your cobra or updog

So you've got to that stage where you want to explore a little more, maybe your already doing up-dog but want to tie up a few loose ends! Up-dog is an intense backbend which takes more strength & mastery to execute it correctly & most importantly safely. As in Cobra, your torso lifts off but now we lift the hips & legs off the ground too!

Let's master your up-dog:

  1. Pushing the ground away avoid compressing into your lower back & focus more on the backbend coming from your upper back at your heart centre

  2. Firmly root your knuckles into the floor to avoid straining the wrist

  3. Check your shoulders are directly above your wrists* so you dont put extra pressure on your lower back or wrists

  4. Avoid slumping into the shoulders, push more into the ground and lower shoulders away from your ears

  5. Feel your chest pull through your arms & collarbones lengthening!

  6. Thighs and knees lift away from the floor

  7. Keep the crown on your head lifting towards the ceiling, drawing the chin down towards your neck & your gaze forward (You can with time release your head back slightly if this feels nice on your neck)

*TOP TIP: depending how you have transitioned into this posture you may have to wriggle your weight further forward to stack the shoulders


I hope you've enjoyed learning how to master your backbend & you feel more confident in your approach.

Please remember to play around with what feels best to you & guard your spine!

Beginners Vinyasa Flow Yoga course

The next mastery is then moving from Up-Dog to Down Dog with smooth control!

Let me know in the comments if you'd like to learn more about that!

Wearing: Top @flowbyvanessa £22

Leggings @yogaleggs £45

All available to buy in our shop.

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