As a yoga instructor, one of the most frequent requests I hear from my students is for help releasing tension from their shoulders and back. And it’s no surprise, considering how much time we spend hunched over a desk, steering wheel, or mobile device.
Even if you’re relatively active and aware of your posture, stress can cause you to tense up unconsciously until you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your back.
Uttana Shishosana, also known as puppy dog pose or extended dog pose, is a juicy heart opener and one of my favorite ways to melt away the day’s tension. This asana is similar to Child’s Pose, with an extra stretch for your upper back as your spine extends.
This asana offers sweet release not just of physical tension but emotionally, too. Uttana Shishosana stimulates your heart chakra, opening you to greater compassion and gratitude.
So, whether you’ve been carrying tightness in your shoulders or looking for some emotional release, try Extended Puppy Dog Pose. We’ll take you through step-by-step instructions and share this transformative asana’s wonderfully positive effects on your body, mind, and heart.
- 1 Introducing Uttana Shishosana
- 2 Step-by-Step Instructions for Extended Dog Pose
- 3 Preparatory Poses for Uttana Shishosana
- 4 Modifications for Uttana Shishosana
- 5 Incorporating Props in Uttana Shishosana
- 6 Benefits of Puppy Dog Pose
- 7 Impact of Mastering Uttana Shishosana
Introducing Uttana Shishosana
Let’s start with the basics as you get to know this posture.
Most yoga teachers call this Puppy, Extended Puppy, or Extended Dog Pose. However, you may hear the name “Melting Heart” Pose in a Yin class!
Its Sanskrit name, Uttana Shishosana, is a pretty direct translation, with uttana meaning “stretched out,” added to shishu, which means “infant” or “baby” (in this case referring to a puppy). The name describes its shape, resembling the classic stretch dogs and puppies do before lying down.
Puppy Pose is a heart-opening posture that stretches the upper body, especially the middle back, while releasing tension along the spine. You’ll commonly find this pose used in yin yoga sequences, heart chakra-themed classes, or in dynamic flows as a warm-up for intense backbends.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Extended Dog Pose
Ready to feel the rejuvenation and release of Uttana Shishosana? This pose promotes flexibility in the spine from your middle back to your neck and helps you relax your shoulders.
Follow these simple steps and mindful alignment cues.
- Begin in Table Top, with your hips aligned over your knees and hands underneath your shoulders. Press the tops of your feet onto the floor.
- Begin to walk your hands forward, reaching your arms in front of you.
- As you move your hands forward, gently lower your upper body towards the floor.
- Keep your hips stacked over your knees as your arms reach forward.
- Bring your forehead to the floor. Tuck your chin slightly, keeping the back of your neck long.
- Reach your tailbone back and up towards the ceiling to lengthen your spine.
- Press your palms into the floor. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, let your chest sink towards the ground between your shoulders, as if your heart is melting toward the floor.
- Hold the position for a minute or so, then release.
To exit Extended Dog Pose safely, follow these steps.
- Press your palms into the floor to engage the muscles in your arms.
- Engage your core muscles by pressing your navel in and up.
- Lift your head and chest a couple of inches off your yoga mat.
- One at a time, move your hands back towards your knees, returning to Table Top or taking a counterpose, like Child’s Pose.
Alignment Cues for Yoga Teachers
If you’re a yoga instructor, here are some alignment tips to help your students refine their alignment in Uttana Shishosana.
- Separate your hands, keeping them shoulder-width apart or a little wider, with your pinky fingers touching the edges of your yoga mat. This will help your shoulders relax and leave more space for your chest to release.
- Fan your fingers wide and press down through each fingertip. This will distribute your weight evenly and relieve any pressure on your wrists.
- Keep a micro-bend in your elbows to avoid hyperextending the joint.
And don’t forget about breath awareness! In Uttana Shishosana, you can use intentional breaths to deepen the intensity of the stretch.
- Tell your students to imagine creating more space between their ribs and along their spine with each inhale.
- With each exhale, encourage them to release a bit deeper into the stretch, letting their chest sink slightly closer to the ground.
This asana can be an intense experience for someone with tight shoulders, so breath awareness can be your secret to staying in the pose long enough to release your muscles.
Preparatory Poses for Uttana Shishosana
Warming Up with Beneficial Poses
Before diving into the Extended Puppy Pose, it’s crucial to warm up your back and shoulders with poses like these:
- Cat Cow Pose mobilizes and warms up the spine as you gently flow between these two positions.
- Downward Facing Dog lengthens and decompresses the spine, helping to prepare for deeper stretches.
- Cobra Pose activates the back and shoulder muscles while gently opening the chest in preparation for Extended Puppy Dog Pose.
Importance of Warm-Up for Injury Prevention
Don’t skip warm-ups! Jumping into any yoga sequence without proper preparation can be risky.
Warm-ups help your body ease into more intense poses like Extended Puppy Dog Pose. This doesn’t include stretching but also activating key muscles to support your joints.
If you’re new to yoga, seek out the guidance of a certified yoga instructor before attempting new yoga sequences or poses. They can guide you through proper form and technique to ensure safety while practicing.
Modifications for Uttana Shishosana
Yoga is all about listening to your body and adapting as needed. Remembering that this pose may not look the same for everybody is crucial.
Beginners might alter the position of the hands, keeping them closer to the body with the forearms entirely on the floor, similar to Dolphin Pose.
On the other hand, students with a lot of spinal flexibility might comfortably turn their face up, placing their chin on their mat for a more intense stretch.
To offer perspective from a yoga instructor: only you know what feels okay in your body. So, in addition to listening to cues from your yoga teachers, always listen to what your body is telling you and make any modifications you need to get the most out of the pose.
Incorporating Props in Uttana Shishosana
Uttana Shishosana is all about bringing relief to your body. Using props can help you remain comfortable and hold it longer for deeper release. Creative prop use also makes this posture accessible for all students.
Place a folded blanket wherever you need extra padding, especially under your knees or forehead, for extra comfort.
Place a yoga block underneath your upper arms, then bend your elbows, bringing your fingertips to your upper back.
You might also place a foam yoga block underneath your forehead to keep from straining your neck.
Try this Chair Yoga variation of Utthita Shishosona for a less intense stretch.
Set a chair in front of you, with the seat facing you. From Table Top, extend both arms forward, placing your elbows and forearms on the chair seat. Your forehead can also rest there, or let your head relax between your biceps.
If you have difficulty balancing on your knees, try this standing variation.
Face a wall, standing an arm’s length distance away. Hinge forward from your hips and place your palms flat on the wall. Keep your arms straight as you walk your hands up the wall, continuing to lean forward until you feel a stretch in your shoulders and spine.
Make sure you’re ready for any modification by adding a yoga blanket or set of blocks to your home practice space!
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Benefits of Puppy Dog Pose
Uttana Shishosana, or Extended Dog Pose, or Uttana Shishosana, is a miracle worker for anyone who works many hours at a desk, spends many hours driving, or has a stiff back and tense upper body.
Add this stretch to your yoga sequences, and you’ll notice many positive effects:
- Increased spinal flexibility and mobility
- Improved posture
- Relief from tight muscles in the back, shoulders, and neck
- Improved lung capacity from opening the chest
Calm and Clear Mind
This pose brings relief from mental strains as well as physical. The key is in the breath: each time you exhale, imagine releasing troubling or heavy thoughts, lightening your mental load.
The focus on breath awareness in this posture helps relieve stress, soothe the nervous system, and calm the mind.
One of my favorite aspects of Uttana Shishosana is that it’s in the category of heart-opener poses.
In Extended Dog Pose, you open up your chest, which can help you feel more connected to your heart chakra. This energy center is all about emotional awareness, especially love and compassion.
For students navigating grief or dealing with heavy emotions, the release experienced in Uttana Shishosana can feel like removing a hefty boulder from your back.
Even if you feel positive in your emotional space, you can still benefit from this heart opener, expanding your capacity to feel joy, compassion, and love for yourself and others.
Impact of Mastering Uttana Shishosana
Uttana Shishosana, or the Extended Dog Pose, can be intense and transformational! From releasing pent-up emotion to improving posture, this yoga pose provides physical and mental benefits that enhance overall well-being.
I especially love the versatility of this asana — you can use it in calming Yin yoga practices or as a warm-up in yoga sequences that lead to deep backbends.
Overall, yoga is supposed to help your body feel good, right? I can guarantee you, especially after a long day, that Puppy Pose will help melt away your stresses and let you breathe a bit easier at the day’s end.
Consider this an invitation for all yoga practitioners — beginners or advanced — to experience these benefits first-hand. So why wait? Start your journey towards mastering the Extended Dog Pose today!
FAQ 1: What are some preparatory poses for Puppy Pose?
Before attempting Uttana Shishosana, it’s beneficial to warm up with yoga poses such as Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog, Cobra Pose, and Cat Cow Pose.
FAQ 2: Can I use props in Extended Puppy Pose?
Yes, using yoga blocks under your upper arms or a blanket under your forehead in Uttana Shishosana can provide additional support and comfort, especially if you hold the pose for several breaths.
FAQ 3: Who should avoid performing Uttana Shishosana?
Individuals with an injury in their knees, shoulders, or spine should avoid this pose. Pregnant women can safely practice this pose using modifications with blocks, a chair, or the wall. However, remember, if you are pregnant, consult your healthcare provider before attempting any new yoga poses.
FAQ 4: How often should I do Extended Puppy Pose?
To see improvements in your posture, consistency is critical. For example, if you drive a lot or work at a desk, try to do this pose daily if possible. However, if you feel discomfort or pain during or after the pose, it’s advisable to rest or modify the pose.
FAQ 5: What are the benefits of Puppy Pose?
Uttana Shishosana stretches and opens the shoulders and chest, lengthens the spine, and strengthens the arms and abdominal muscles. It also calms the mind and helps in stress reduction.