Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

How to do Puppy Pose

Written by:

Logan Hailey

Edited & fact checked by:

Jagpreet Kaur

Published Date:

Estimated reading time:

Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)

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Key Takeaway

Puppy Pose, or Uttana Shishosana, is a gentle yet effective asana for stretching the shoulders, opening the heart chakra, and relieving stress and upper back pain caused by poor posture.

PUPPY POSE
Alternate name:Anahatasana
Difficulty level:Beginner
Pose category:Kneeling
Muscle groups:Latissimus dorsi (back)
Trapezius (upper back)
Deltoids (shoulders)
Triceps (upper arms)
Serratus anterior (ribs/underarm)
Pectoralis major (chest)
Abdominals (stomach)
Physical benefits:Relieves upper back pain, improves posture, stress relief, opens the chest and heart chakra.
Therapeutic applications:Relieve upper back pain, stress relief.
Preparatory poses:Child's Pose (Balasana)
Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaiasana)
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Counterposes that follow well:Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Child's Pose (Balasana)
Chakras activated:Heart Chakra (Anahata Chakra)
Most helpful prop:Manduka Yoga Cork Block - Yoga Prop and Accessory, Good for Travel, Comfortable Edges, Lightweight,...
Yoga block under forehead - supports neck, eases stretch.

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When your upper back seems to be screaming at you for hunching over technology all day, Puppy Pose is the perfect beginner-friendly asana to stretch the shoulders and lengthen the spine.

Also known as the Melting Heart Pose, the Puppy Pose is a rejuvenating heart opener that calms the mind and opens the heart chakra for more balance and joy in daily life. You can think of this pose as a cross between Downward Facing Dog and Child’s Pose.

Let’s dig into everything you need to know about Puppy Pose, including how to practice and teach it safely.

Prefer video? Here’s our complete tutorial on how to perform the pose:

Uttana Shishosana: The Intense Puppy

In Sanskrit, the Extended Puppy Pose is known as Uttana Shishosana. This translates to “intense baby dog pose” as a reference to the powerful chest opening and shoulder stretching. As you lower down into a full puppy position, the deep backbend can work wonders on the stagnant spinal tension that we accumulate from hunching over in our daily lives. Despite its intense name, this asana can be relaxing and stress-relieving with the right form and props.

Is the puppy pose a heart opener?

Puppy Pose is also called Melting Heart Poes because it is a prone (downward-facing) position that opens the heart toward the Earth. In its full expression, this asana creates a big stretch across the chest, collarbone, and upper spine while the hips stretch to reach the sky.

This heart-opening posture is a slight inversion that brings the heart just higher than the head, which creates a sense of calmness and stress relief throughout the body. However, it is important to enter and exit the pose slowly because the changes in blood flow can cause dizziness or lightheadedness.

Pose Benefits

Puppy Pose is a back-bending posture that targets your spine and shoulders. It can leave you feeling calm, stress-free, and playful, just like a puppy!

What are the benefits of practicing puppy pose?

Puppy Pose is the perfect restorative posture for anyone who spends a lot of time at a desk or on their phone. It directly counteracts poor posture by deeply arching and stretching your entire back. Even if you don’t go all the way into the extended expression, you can still reap all of these benefits from any variation of Puppy Pose:

  • Relieve upper back pain: Puppy Pose feels divine for tight shoulders or a tense upper spine. As you lower toward the floor with your arms outstretched, the shoulder blades can roll back and down to release pressure through the neck.
  • Improves posture: Most modern people are walking around like hunchbacks with chronic tension in their upper backs. Regularly practicing Puppy Pose can dramatically improve your posture and help you stand up straighter. This not only helps with back pain, but also aids in digestion, energy, confidence, and core strength.
  • Stress relief: Bringing the heart slightly above the head creates a mild inversion that helps you relax and de-stress. The change in the direction of your blood flow helps soothe your nervous system and lower the heart rate after a stressful workday or intense yoga practice.
  • Calmness and energy: Like Downward Dog, Puppy Pose sends a soothing, calm energy throughout the body. You can close your eyes and relax into the posture, then wake up and feel more energized for the rest of your day.
  • Opens the chest and heart chakra: A blocked heart chakra can lead to a lack of self-love, a fear of vulnerability, and feeling disconnected in interpersonal relationships. Physical signs of heart chakra imbalance may include chronic upper back pain and asthma or circulation problems. This posture helps to stretch open the chest and balance the heart’s energy, so you can feel safe and open to love in all its forms.
  • Stretch your stomach: If your abs are feeling particularly sore after a big workout, Puppy Pose also offers a subtle stretch across the stomach that can soothe digestion and reduce bloating.

Mental Health Benefits

Puppy Pose goes beyond stretching your back or opening your chest; it has an impact, on your mental wellness. When you ease into this pose, you’re not just releasing tension but also shedding mental stress.

This posture prompts a moment of pause in our lives. By concentrating on your breath and the stretch, you create room for mindfulness. This can result in decreased levels of anxiety and stress. Picture each exhalation as a release of a worry or stressful thought.

Puppy Pose also supports sleep quality. The soothing nature of the pose, particularly when done before bedtime, prepares your body and mind for relaxation. It’s like signaling to your body, “It’s time to unwind now.”

Additionally, this pose can enhance your mood. The heart-opening element of Puppy Pose improves circulation, leading to oxygen flow, throughout your body. This can leave you feeling more invigorated and content. So if you’re feeling blue or overwhelmed, consider easing into Puppy Pose for some relief.

Psychological Benefits

Emotional Release

From experience, I’ve found that the Puppy Pose can be a pathway to release. Opening up the chest and elongating the spine not only eases tension but also aids in releasing emotional burdens. Each breath taken in this pose seems to help dissipate layers of stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness and Being Present

Another intriguing aspect is how the Puppy Pose promotes mindfulness and presence. The gentle inversion, with the heart positioned above the head, fosters a sense of tranquility that facilitates staying grounded in the moment. It serves as a nudge to slow down and connect with what happening

Fostering Self Kindness

Lastly, incorporating the practice of the Puppy Pose has allowed me to nurture self-compassion. This pose, with its nurturing and gentle essence, acts as an expression of self-care and self-love. Taking a moment to honor the efforts of our bodies and minds each day is truly special.

Adding Puppy Pose to my practice has not only enhanced my flexibility and stance, but it has also brought me emotional rewards. It serves as a nudge that yoga is more than physical movements; it’s a holistic experience that encompasses mental and emotional growth too.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Uttana Shishosana

table top
  1. Begin in the tabletop position on all fours. Keep your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your hips stacked above your knees, with the tops of your feet resting on the mat. Bring your knees together to touch each other.
  2. Walk your hands forward a few inches and spread the fingers as you root into the floor.
  3. On an exhale, reach your tailbone toward the sky and let your chest begin melting toward the floor.
  4. Inhale and activate your arms so that your elbows are lifted from the ground and your forearms are pressing into the mat.
  5. Exhale and melt deeper as your forehead touches the floor. Let your stomach reach back toward your thighs, and your buttocks will continue lifting upward.
  6. Keep the hips stacked over your knees, and let your spine naturally curve as your upper body opens with gravity. Do not force it.
  7. On each inhale, strengthen the arms and core. On each exhale, allow yourself to release downward. Keep reaching forward with your arms. Feel your chest melt downward and your spine elongate.
  8. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  9. On an exhale, slowly lift your forehead, release your neck, and look forward. Press them into your hands and walk them back toward your body.
  10. Very slowly lift to return to a tabletop or kneeling position. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, breathe and stabilize before moving again.

How long should you hold the puppy pose?

Puppy Pose should be held for 5 to 10 breaths or 30 seconds to 1 minute. It is important to slowly and deeply inhale and exhale as you stretch through the entire spine. Unless you are experienced with this posture, holding the pose longer could lead to feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or faint.

Tips for Mastering the Pose

Mastering Extended Puppy Pose is no easy feat, especially if you have tight shoulders or chronic tension in your back. These tips help you ease into the posture and use props when needed.

Tip #1: Relax your neck

Puppies are virtually tension-free balls of fur. Channel that energy by allowing your neck to chill out and elongate. Don’t try to look forward. Rest your third eye on the mat and breathe as you release any tension in the neck.

If you feel like you can’t relax your neck and head, try placing a block beneath your forehead. We explain this variation more below.

Tip #2: Keep active arms and palms pressing down

Your arms are the most active part of your body during Puppy Pose. Keep your hands active by pressing the knuckles of your fingers into the floor and keeping your elbows lifted from the mat. This will help you go deeper into your posture while staying supported. Imagine your hands pushing forward and away from your body so that your torso can melt back and down.

Tip #3: Cushion your knees

If your knees feel uncomfortable in Puppy Pose, use a rolled-up blanket or yoga knee pads to support them. This posture is all about opening the heart, but that can be hard to do if your joints are aching on the hard floor.

Tip #4: Pull your hips back and up

The resistance between your lower body and upper body makes this pose so relieving and enjoyable. As your hips reach up and back, your chest and heart can reach forward and down. Imagine a belt looped around your hips and someone pulling your buttocks up toward the sky. Reach up with your tailbone so you can create a great big slope along your spine.

Common Mistakes

Extended Puppy Pose is not always as easy as it looks. Avoid these mistakes to ensure that you don’t injure your back or force your spine into a position it isn’t ready for.

Common Mistake #1: Moving too quickly

Sliding into Puppy too quickly can hurt your back or kink up your spine. Entering Extended Puppy requires patience and breathwork. It is one of those yoga poses that you need to take your time with.

How to Fix It: It’s important to thoroughly warm up before attempting this posture. Then, prepare a strong foundation before diving in. Press into your arms and slowly arch your chest down and back.

Common Mistake #2: Inactive arms

It is natural to flop downward into a restorative asana, but inactive arms could cause you to open your chest farther than you’re ready. Your arms are the foundation of this pose, which gives you control over how deep you go. If you find yourself slipping too low and feeling pain in the upper spine, you need to activate your arms.

How to Fix It: Keep your upper arms engaged and your palms pressing into the mat so that your elbows are lifted from the floor. The armpits should be long and stretched out. Check that your elbows are rotated inward and not splaying out.

Common Mistake #3: Lifted chin

Beginners often try to focus forward as they go back into Extended Puppy, but lifting the chin can crunch up your neck and cause more upper back pain.

How to Fix It: Tuck your chin under and place your third eye (forehead) directly on the mat. Imagine your neck as an elongated part of your spine.

Note: Some advanced versions of Extended Puppy Pose involve arching the neck backward to deepen the backbend. Only attempt this under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.

Variations

There are several ways to modify Puppy Pose based on your flexibility and comfort level.

Entry Level: Half Dog Pose Against a Wall

half dog pose

For those who have a lot of tension in the upper back, Half Dog is the gentlest way to ease into Extended Puppy.

  1. Face your body against a wall about a leg’s length away.
  2. Place your palms on the wall shoulder-width apart. You can keep the hands at shoulder height for an easier stretch or lower to elbow height if you are more flexible.
  3. Press your knuckles into the wall and elongate your spine.
  4. Slightly tuck your chin and allow your chest to drop down between your arms. Feel your shoulder blades press toward each other. Your legs remain straight.
  5. Relax your neck and take five deep breaths.
  6. Slowly release by pushing off the wall to stand back up.

Beginner-Friendly: Puppy with a Block for Your Forehead

Puppy pose block

Beginners may have trouble arching their back enough to reach their head to the floor. Placing a block beneath the forehead softens the spinal curve. Rest your third eye on a foam or cork yoga block and stretch your arms overhead on each side of the block.

Advanced Stretch: Extended Puppy Pose with Blocks Under Elbows

If your shoulders are already super flexible, you can advance the heart-expanding benefits of Extended Puppy by placing your elbows on two blocks and joining your hands in a prayer position. This will allow your chest to melt deeper toward the Earth.

Be sure to place the blocks shoulder-width apart in front of you before beginning. Bend your arms so that your hands reach directly upward and your head goes down between them.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid practicing extended puppy pose if you have injuries to your knees, hips, shoulders, or spine. If you experience pain in your shoulders, back off and move your hands outward.

Always be careful when exiting Extended Puppy Pose because you may get dizzy or lightheaded.

Don’t practice this pose if you’re pregnant or have cardiovascular disease.

Teaching the Pose

When teaching Extended Puppy Pose, use these extra cues to safely guide students in and out of the pose:

  • Don’t let your knees spread wider than your hips.
  • Keep your elbows lifted and inward. Avoid splaying them out.
  • Push your hips halfway back toward your heels.
  • Keep your hips directly over your knees.
  • Activate your arms by pressing your palms into the mat.
  • Imagine your shoulder blades kissing your back.
  • Allow your heart to melt toward the Earth.

Preparatory Poses

Counter Poses

Conclusion

We all could use a little more back-bending and heart-opening. Next time you are feeling tense or hunched over, melt into Uttana Shishosana and channel your inner puppy.

Namaste! 

Pop quiz! 🧘🤔

Puppy Pose is also known as Melting Heart Pose.

Puppy Pose should be avoided if you have knee injuries.

Puppy Pose is primarily a hand-strengthening posture.

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