Yoga for Posture – 7 – The Dog Postures

Okay, we’ve done the primary back muscles with Baby Cobra. We’ve done the butt muscles with Bridge. We’ve gone twice ‘round on the core with Dead Bug and some tougher variations on Dead Bug.

Then, we began to stretch with Dragon Lunge. Let’s keep stretching, this time the back and shoulders, with the Dogs.

First, why do I keep saying “The Dog Postures,” rather than “Downward Dog?” First, because I hate Down Dog with a passion (so I don’t actually do it), second because there’s a Down Dog variation I don’t hate and third there’s also Puppy.

Before we continue, I suppose I should tell you why I hate Down Dog. Three reasons. One, I have inwardly rotated shoulders which makes raising my arms straight overhead, biceps to the ears, impossible. Two, I have very deep hip sockets meaning my thigh bones impinge on my hip sockets at 90° bend. Three, I have very tight hamstrings, so with knees straight, before my thighs get to a 90° bend by lumbar spine begins to flex. Any of those three things, on its own, would make Down Dog difficult and painful. Together they make it torture.

But I learned to do it, just for you. You’re welcome. Anyway…

Downward Facing Dog

  • Lie face down, palms below your shoulders
  • Do a push up to raise yourself into plank
  • Hinge at the hips and shoulders until your thighs are 90° to you hips, and your biceps are beside your ears.
  • Gently lower your heels to the floor, if you can (I can’t), to stretch the calves and hamstrings
  • Press forward through the shoulder girdle to stretch the shoulders
  • Pull back with the legs/hips to give a gentle traction to the spine, to help decompress your discs

Doing this offers a stretch for the entire back line, from shoulders to heels. Depending upon your anatomy, the stretch can vary all the way from mild to very deep. For me, if I were to do this I would get a very deep stretch of my hamstrings and calves, along with a very deep stretch for my shoulders. However, as I noted above, I can’t do this posture. Instead, I do:

Squatted Downward Facing Dog

  • Do everything noted above, but with a deep bend in the knees.
  • This allows those of us with deep hip sockets and/or tight hamstrings to get into the posture
  • This allows us to gain the benefits of stretching the shoulders and decompressing the spine, without putting bad, evil, no good flexion into our lumbar spines
  • To get the stretch into your hamstrings and calves, without flexing your lumbar, reduce the bend in your knees. As you straighten out your legs, you will begin to stretch their back lines, and you are in control of the level of stretch, and the flexion of your lumbar spine.

The other dog posture, the Puppy, is for next time.