Then, we began to stretch with Dragon Lunge and continued with Downward Dog, and Squatted Downward Dog. We did a gentle, unloaded back bend with Sphinx to relax the spine. Let’s return to stretching, this time for a gentle decompression of the spine, with Puppy.
Puppy is a hybrid posture, combining aspects of Downward Dog, Child and Sphinx. Down dog stretches the shoulders, Child’s posture relaxes the spine, and Sphinx gives a gentle back bend. We’re going to do bits and pieces of all of it, and add a little traction for spinal decompression, using Puppy.
- Start from table top (thighs and arms straight up and down, knees bent 90°, spine neutral, neck flat, looking straight down)
- Walk your hands forward, sinking your chest to the floor
- Relax down into it
- Find the most comfortable arrangement of your hips and legs. Experiment with the
- bend in your knees
- distance between your knees
- distance between your feet
- Find the most comfortable arrangement of your arms and shoulders. Experiment with
- Keeping them straight for a shoulder stretch
- Bending at shoulders and elbows to relax deeper
- Propping your chin under your hands
- Find the most comfortable position for your head. Experiment with
- Forehead to the floor
- Chin to the floor (or propped up on your hands
- Head turned sideways
- Most important of all, and stop me if you’ve heard this, RELAX. This is a gentle traction and release for the lumbar spine, and thoracic back bend.
For your edification, my favourite position is knees out, feet together, knees bent about 45°, arms straight forward, forehead on the floor. This arrangement gently pulls my spine, while giving an equally gentle thoracic back bend, and stretches my shoulders.
One of the things I like best about Puppy is that I get the benefits of Child’s pose, without the discomfort.
Wait, wut? Discomfort in Child’s Pose? That’s supposed to be pure relaxation.
Yes. I wrote about hip impingement, and gave an exercise for testing/discovering your hips’ range of motion because of this very problem. If you have deep hip sockets (as I do) Child’s Pose, that most relaxing of postures, is uncomfortable. When I do it “out of the box” my hips jam against my pelvis, rounding out my spine.
So, instead of a nice relaxing pose with a gentle back bend/spinal traction, I end up with another forward fold and lumbar flexion. For me, any lumbar flexion is bad, so bad that I wrote a six part series on modifying Bikram Yoga to prevent wrecking your (okay, my) lumbar spine (one, two, three, four, five and six).
Anyway, for me, the solution to getting a gentle inversion/spinal traction/shoulder stretch, without hip or lumbar pain is Puppy. Give it a try.
So far we’ve been strengthening and stretching. Next time, we’ll add a twist.