Upward Facing Dog is a foundational pose in vinyasa yoga, but really challenging for most yogis. Why? Because Up Dog puts us in one of our deepest backbends, accentuated by the full weight of gravity, during flow where we have little time to examine (let alone correct) our posture.
If we get our set-up right for Chaturanga, Up Dog should follow naturally - just straighten the arms! But if we are already laying in the front of the shoulder joint or dumping into the low back, it can be a huge challenge to correct these habits in what, for most of us, is already a strong pose.
The good news - Cobra is a fantastic alternative to Up Dog. In fact, Cobra is probably more strength-building than Up Dog, as we use muscular strength rather than gravity to create the backbend, and have to lift our body weight back up from the floor. This is one of many situations on vinyasa yoga where a modification offers its own benefits, and isn't just a watered-down version of the regular pose. The moral is: don't hesitate to modify!
To learn more about this and other foundational poses, come to my upcoming Foundations of Flow workshop @centralyogastudio Cromwell on Sunday July 8th. Or, better yet, join me at @yoga_medicine 200hr teacher training (we have one coming up next month in Oregon USA). Get in touch for more info