The extended puppy pose can be a relaxation as well as a stretch pose for beginners and intermediate practitioners of yoga. It combines the downward facing dog (Adho Mukho Svanasana) with the child’s pose (Balasana) to open up the shoulder muscles and stretch out the arms.
For beginners this is an ideal pose to start their inversion practice with since the weight of the body shifts to the arms from the trunk. The extended puppy pose can be used either as a warmup or as a relaxation pose after the practise of a headstand such as the Sirsasana or the plow pose.
The Basics of Extended Puppy Pose:
This pose is known as ‘Uttana Shishosana’ in Sanskrit where ‘Uttan’ refers to the word extended. If you have seen a puppy or a dog stretch their front limbs, you will notice that this pose is an emulation of that. The spine and limbs are stretched out completely and with minimal effort. It is great for beginners and can be practiced before or after the cat/cow pose (Marjarisasana) for optimum relaxation.
The extended puppy pose is often considered a variation of the downward facing dog for beginners or for those with leg and knee injury. The weight of the body is shifted to the arms and upper body in this pose and one can perform the Mulabandha (root lock) when in this pose to achieve mastery over breath eventually.
The Benefits of Extended Puppy Pose:
The extended puppy pose opens up the Anahata (heart) chakra because the chest is extended and allowed to rest. It strengthens the back and the hip muscles. Practicing this over a long period of time also strengthens the abdominal muscles and can help reduce bloating and dissolving excess fat in the area since it aids digestion.
Those who suffer from knots or tensions in their back and shoulder can practice this for relief and for better circulation of blood to those areas. The extended puppy pose also helps in relaxation.
If you are feeling stressed or anxious, this pose can help you calm down and focus better.
How To Practice the Extended Puppy Pose?
- Sit on your mat in Vajrasana with your knees folded and thighs together. Your toes should be pointing outwards.
- Place your palms on the ground in front of you keeping them parallel to your shoulders.
- Inhale and come into the tabletop pose by raising your torso and your hips. Your hips should be above your knees and torso should be parallel to the ground.
- Exhale and gently glide your palms away from you so you can lower your torso towards the ground without bending your elbows.
- With your arms straight and stretched out, lower your forehead so it touches the ground.
- In the final pose your back and arms should be straight, your hips should be perpendicular to the ground and your fingers should be firmly on the ground.
- Resume normal breathing and relax in this pose for a few minutes.
- Gently release the pose by lowering your hips and relaxing in this child’s pose for a few seconds.
Common Mistakes While Practicing This Pose:
Just like the downward facing dog, in this pose you must make sure that your back is straight and not rounded. This helps in stretching your spine out and letting it relax. Don’t bend your elbows and let your knees point outwards. Make sure your knees are parallel to each other and your hips are very widely spread out. This can often lead to a lower back injury.
When you are in the final pose, your fingers should be spread out and firmly on the ground. Grip the floor with your fingertips and make sure you press firmly to distribute the weight equally among all your fingers.
Beginner’s Tip for Uttana Shishosana:
For those who are unable to touch the ground with their forehead without curving the back, place a yoga block or a cushion in front of you. This will help you stretch your arms and back with ease.
To make sure that your arms are at a correct distance, when you are in the tabletop pose, interlock your arms by holding the elbow of the opposite arm with your fingers. This should give you the distance needed between them.
If you have weak knees, place a cushion or folded blanket under them for comfort.
Cautions During Practice:
If you have overtly stiff shoulders and arms, then you must practice a few warm up poses before attempting this. Those with shoulder, arm, or back injury must avoid this pose because it can aggravate their injury.
Although this pose can be practiced by almost everybody, those in their later stages of preganancy or those who have had recent surgery must not practice the extended puppy pose.
Those with knee or lower back injury should either avoid this or practice it under the supervision of a teacher because the pose puts pressure on these areas.
Variations Of the Extended Puppy Pose:
There are many ways to deepen this pose. In the first instance, place your palms on a yoga block. This will allow you to stretch your spine even more. Make sure your elbows are not rotating outwards in this modification.
Additionally, you can also place your elbows on the ground and touch your shoulder blades with your palms. In this variation, ensure that your elbows are perpendicular to the ground and your arms aren’t spreading outwards.
For those looking to stretch their legs as well, come into the final pose and then gently raise your knees off the ground and straighten your legs by walking backwards on your toes. Your legs should be straight, knees firm, and your buttocks should be perpendicular to the floor. Make sure you are not folding your arms. This variation is not recommended for beginners as they will have difficulty in engaging their core and not letting their trunk collapse. For intermediate practitioners, one can hold this variation for a few minutes and then gently come back into the original extended puppy pose.