This one is a little tough to start out, but it’s fun and feels great after you’ve got it down! The pose gets its English name from that adorable stance dogs and puppies take when they want to play.
If you’re familiar with the downward dog position and devotional pose, this is sort of a cross between the two.
What It Does
This is a great way to stretch and open up tight shoulders and your upper back. Puppy pose also helps you build stability and balance by focusing on muscles that you may not always think about when you attempt a balancing pose.
Why It Helps
If you’re hunched over a desk all day, this can help you release some of that tension by opening up your shoulders. Balancing on your knees instead of your feet can be tough, but this pose can help you learn how to stabilize your weight through your arms and your core to keep the proper form.
Source: Yogawiz.com, CNY Healing Arts
Photo: Luke Marsden, the Sunday Mail
How To Pose Like a Playful Puppy
- Start on your knees, and set them hip-width apart.
- Come forward onto all fours, and lower your head, neck and shoulders, keeping them in line with your spine, bringing your shoulder blades toward each other. You can inch your hands further away from you on the floor, just far enough as is comfortable. You may rest your forehead on the floor, if you can reach.
- Ground your weight through your shins and the tops of your feet, and distribute it evenly at the front through both hands.
- Breathe into your back, maintaining your balance, and not allowing yourself to sway to one side or the other.
- To come out of the pose, bring your hands closer again, and push back up into table pose.
The Finer Details
- Your legs should form a right angle, meaning your hips shouldn’t come forward when you begin to lower your upper body.
- If your shoulders are especially tight, it may help to put a folded blanket or a block in front of you to rest your forehead on, instead of trying to come all the way to the floor.
- You may need to work up to going deeper into the pose as it relates to keeping your hips in line with your body. It’s tempting to sway side to side, or to shift your hips to one side to rest, but this puts your spine out of alignment, and can strain some of the muscles. In order to avoid this, it’s important to focus on your core, ground through legs to the floor, and keep your arms strong.
If you have any pain in your knees kneeling on the floor, you may want to fold up a couple inches of your mat to build a small cushion, or you can use a blanket under them.
If your shoulders are tight, if your back is used to slouching, or if you’re still getting used to the pose, you may have some pain in your back and shoulders. Be sure only to go as deep into the pose as is comfortable for you at the time. With practice, you can work your way toward the full pose.
Take It To The Next Level
Because of the potential strain you can put on your neck, there aren’t many variations for this pose. The full pose offers the deepest stretch, but again, using a block or blanket at first to rest your head on may be the best places to start, and then work your way up to the full pose.
This pose is meant to stretch and open your shoulders, so while you may find it comfortable to rest your forehead on the floor, it’s important not to put any weight on your head, as this can give you some pain in your neck. Hold it for a couple breaths, as long as you’re able to keep your weight up through your arms and legs, but if you feel yourself starting to shift your hips or put too much weight on your resting head, it’s time to back off and come out of the pose.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
No matter what, yoga is all about YOU. Getting in touch with your body, your comfort level, and your breath. Never hold a pose longer than is truly comfortable to do so, and if you experience discomfort or pain in a pose, ease up or change poses to relieve the discomfort.
REMEMBER: In yoga, your practice is YOUR practice. Nobody’s yelling at you to move faster, bend lower, or breathe deeper. There’s no competition, no drill sergeant trainer, and no counter telling you how many reps to do. If you can’t get the full pose today, it’s all right. You’ll try it again another time when you feel more flexible and more comfortable with it.