Uttana Shishosana: Extended Puppy Pose

anahatasana stephschwartz

An intelligent pose to help lengthen the spine and relieve mental stress, uttana shishosana (OO-ta-NAH she-SHO-sahna), is a hybrid pose — a cross between balasana (child’s pose) and adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog). Uttana shishosana is a great way to energize the physical and subtle bodies for when you’re feeling fatigued, or when you’ve been stuck behind a desk or in a chair all day. Energetically, the posture has the benefits of increasing both self-confidence and self-love.

Philosophy + Origin

Uttana shishosana is a great reminder of why we practice yoga: to feel better and to find tools to help us live our best lives. Named because of the way dogs and puppies stretch, this posture, while far from fancy, is effective in its simplicity. As humans, it’s easy to want to complicate life, always looking to the past or future in order to find meaning.

Dogs, on the other hand, are great at being present. Loyal and playful, our canine companions have a lot to teach us about relaxing and taking care of ourselves and those we love. As you practice extended puppy pose, allow yourself to settle into your senses. Allow yourself to linger (and lengthen) in the feel-good sensations.

ADJUSTMENTS:

  • Neck adjustments: Place your forehead on the ground or use a block under the forehead to alleviate discomfort in the neck.
  • Blanket: For tender knees, place a blanket on the ground for added cushion.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Start on your mat in tabletop pose. Stack your shoulders directly above your wrists and your hips just above your knees. Tuck your toes rather than pointing them.
  2. Keep your hips above your knees and slowly walk your hands forward.
  3. Depending on your body and neck, either rest your forehead onto the mat, on a block, or bring your gaze forward so that your chin rests gently on the mat.
  4. To deepen the stretch along your spine and through the chest and shoulders, press more firmly through the hands as you isometrically pull the hips back to create traction.
  5. Stay for up to a minute. When you’re ready to exit the posture, shift your hips back into child’s pose.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Uttana = intense, extended
  • Shisho = puppy
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Opens the front of the chest.
  • Stretches the muscles of the abdomen.
  • Stimulates and strengthens back muscles.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Activates the sacral (svadhisthana) and heart (anahata) chakras.
  • Increases self-confidence and self-love.
  • Opens the heart for more acceptance and love.
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Ardha Hanumanasana: Half Front Splits Pose

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ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Ardha hanumanasana (are-dah hah-new-mahn-AHS-ah-nah) is a big stretch for hamstrings. This pose is more approachable than full hanumanasana and strengthens the muscles needed to practice front splits safely with the correct muscles properly engaged.

Philosophy + Origin

One of the main characters of the Ramayana is Hanuman, the famous monkey god, devotee of Lord Rama, and son of Vayu (the god of wind). He is celebrated in the pose hanumanasana, which physically represents his famous “leap of faith,” taking him across the ocean from India to Sri Lanka. Ardha hanumanasana, the preparatory pose for hanumanasana, can represent the stability and strength needed to make grand, world-changing (or life-changing) gestures. Rather than only focusing on gaining flexibility, practice ardha hanumanasana to create a healthy balance of flexibility and strength. When practicing ardha hanumanasana, remind yourself of the dangers of only being flexible in life; in order to really get where you want to go, you must also be strong and stable.

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