Yoga for Posture – 9 – Puppy Posture

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 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.

Puppy Posture:

  • 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.