Yoga Sequences

Pose Breakdown: Upward-Facing Intense Stretch Pose

Learn how to hug your torso and thighs together and lengthen upward to find balance in this challenging pose.

Christopher Dougherty

In Upward-Facing Intense Stretch Pose, it’s crucial to hug your torso and thighs together and lengthen upward to find balance. Here’s how.

Upward-Facing Intense Stretch Pose (Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana)

Getting Into the Peak Pose: Upward-Facing Stretch Pose

From a seated position, bend your knees and hook your big toes. Lean back to the edge of your sit bones as you fi rm your legs to straighten them. On an inhalation, expand your chest. On an exhalation, fold your thighs and your torso in toward each other. Place your palms on your feet, stretching your heels upward. On an inhalation, press your shoulder blades in, drawing your chest and face up. On an exhalation, fold your legs deeper into your chest. Aim to use your hip flexors, abdominal wall, and deep spinal muscles—engaging the entire core. As these muscles work in harmony, you will fi nd your center line and come to balance on your sit bones. Hold here for 5 breaths.

See also An Annie Carpenter Sequence, Deconstructed

Alternatives to Upward-Facing Stretch Pose

Happy Baby Balancing Pose


From sitting, bend your knees and lean back onto your sit bones. Hook your big toes and float your legs off the floor. Move your lower spine in, balancing on your sit bones, trying not to fall back.

See also Are Your Hips Balanced? This Leg Lift Test Will Tell You

Wall Stretch


Stand close to a wall, facing it, and roll down to Standing Forward Bend. Walk in as much as you can, resting your back on the wall. If you can, walk in, keeping your hamstrings engaged. Eventually, try slipping your hands under your feet. 

See also 8 Ways (Besides Handstand) to Use a Wall in Your Yoga Practice

Half Upward-Facing Intense Stretch

Christopher Dougherty

From sitting, bend your knees and wrap your hands around the soles of your feet. Straighten your legs, making continuous adjustments forward and back, in and up, as you make your way into this pose.

See also Plug Into the Wall + Recharge: 4 Soothing Restorative Poses

About the Author

Annie Carpenter is the San Francisco–based creator of the SmartFLOW yoga method. Learn more at