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Puppy Pose Will Open Your Heart, Stretch Your Spine & More

September 2, 2021

Could your posture be better? Maybe your shoulders are a little rounded or you've developed a bit of a slouch? Well, we've got the yoga pose for you. Puppy pose, or uttana shishosana in Sanskrit, is a deep backbend that allows you to open up the chest (and heart chakra), and stretch all those areas that affect your posture. Here's how to do it properly, as demonstrated by yoga instructor Phyllicia Bonanno.

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How to do puppy pose, uttana shishosana.

Image by mbg Creative / mbg Creative
  1. From child's pose or tabletop, bring your knees together.
  2. Walk your fingertips forward and bring your chest onto the mat.
  3. Allow your hips to lift high up toward the ceiling, opening up the chest and bending the back.
  4. Hold for a few breaths before moving onto another pose.

Tips & modifications:

  • Always be sure to warm up before puppy pose with gentle backbends, like cat-cow.
  • Breathe deeply into the stretch, creating more space to bend deeper.
  • Modify: If you're struggling to get all the way down onto the mat, you can place a block under your forehead. You can also place a blanket or bolster under your knees to support them if they feel uncomfortable.
  • Make it more challenging: Get deeper into the stretch by placing your elbows on blocks and bring your hands to prayer above your head.

What are the benefits?

There are so many benefits to this backbend, namely that you stretch the spine and open up the chest. The more the back arches, the more the front side of the body opens, which allows the heart chakra to open as well. And of course, this, in turn, improves posture.

Bonanno adds that this pose is also a great shoulder stretch. On top of that, your arms and abdominals get some gentle stretching, and you can release all the pent-up tension we so often hold in our upper back and shoulders.

Last but not least, puppy is a slight inversion, meaning your heart is higher than your head. Inversions are calming, help facilitate circulation, and can leave you feeling generally more Zen. A win-win for the body and mind!

The bottom line is, there's nothing like a good backbend to help improve your posture and open up your heart. The next time you feel like you need it—whether you've been slouching or your heart feels closed off—be sure to include a round or two of puppy pose in your next yoga flow.

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