Puppy Pose: Benefits, Instructions, and Variations

Get your yoga mat and get ready to discover the beautiful benefits of Uttana Shishosana, the puppy pose. It’s the perfect yoga pose for you if you’re looking for a gentle backbend that stretches the back and shoulders, calms the mind, and opens the heart.

Whether you want to improve your posture after a long day in front of the computer, strengthen your back health, or feel more relaxed and open, this yoga pose will get you there.

In this article, you’ll learn how to master this popular asana, get the most out of the puppy pose, and experience its benefits holistically for your body and mind.

Table of Contents:

What Is the Puppy Pose?

In Sanskrit Uttana Shishosana, Puppy Pose is a beginner-friendly yoga pose that opens the chest, stretches shoulders, and lengthens the spine.

It is one of the gentle backbends, sometimes called “Melting Heart” or “Opening Heart Pose.” The name comes from the fact that it energetically opens the heart chakra, which provides more openness, compassion, and joy in daily life.

In addition, it has a slight inversion posture, which means the heart is higher than the head. Inverted poses have a calming effect on the mind, reduce stress in the nervous system, promote blood circulation, and generally make you feel better.

You can think of the pose as a combination of the downward-facing dog and child’s pose.

Is the Puppy Pose Suitable for Beginners?

The puppy pose is perfect for beginners seeking a gentle, restorative backbend.

Which Yoga Classes Practice the Puppy Pose?

The puppy pose is popular in yin yoga classes because of its gentle qualities. However, it can also be practiced in hatha yoga or as a warm-up exercise for deeper backbends in a vinyasa yoga class.

What Are the Benefits of Puppy Pose?

The puppy pose opens the chest and simultaneously exerts a pleasant stretch on the back and shoulders. Therefore, it is an exercise that perfectly balances many hours of office work.

It improves your body’s posture in the long term and can reduce back pain significantly.

Moreover, the puppy pose gently stretches arms and abdominal muscles. It has a calming effect on the mind and reduces stress in the nervous system by putting the body in a slight inversion posture and promoting blood circulation.

Energetically, it affects the heart chakra, located at the level of the chest, and ensures feeling more joy, openness, love, compassion, and connection in everyday life.

Recent studies show the following effects of puppy posture, among others:

1. Improves Posture

Researchers developed a unique yoga program to correct postural problems caused by sedentary work. Their practice included a variation of the puppy pose that can be easily practiced in the office.

The practice of these asanas proved to be an effective tool in the prevention or treatment of:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders associated with poor posture
  • Forward head
  • Chronic neck tension (and associated headaches)
  • Compressed chest
  • Compressive disorders on wrists and shoulders, such as carpal tunnel
  • Impingement syndromes
  • Outlet syndrome
  • Subacromial pain syndrome
  • Spinal disc pathologies

Researchers recommend yoga for occupational musculoskeletal disorders. This practice can significantly help dentists, sedentary workers, and healthcare providers who suffer from occupational awkward posture (Gandolfi et al. 20231).

2. Strengthens Muscles

Fitness often declines faster in people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities than in the general population.

Just two 60-minute yoga sessions per week could help these individuals measurably improve lower and upper body strength, flexibility, and balance in just seven weeks (Reina et al. 20202).

The successful yoga intervention included Uttana Shishosana as an essential pose.

3. Reduces Stress

A 2017 study evaluated the therapeutic potential of yoga in treating mental and physical risks in dentists.

The researchers used a specific yoga practice consisting of 10 selected asanas. The puppy pose was one of them.

The researchers concluded that daily yoga can significantly change one’s lifestyle by relieving stress and improving overall health (Deolia et al. 20173).

How to Do Puppy Pose for Beginners

puppy pose
  1. Come into a four-foot stance. Ensure your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. Rest the backs of your feet on the mat.
  2. With an exhalation, hike your fingertips forward as you push your buttocks back toward your heels. Your hips should remain above your knees. Push your tailbone up toward the sky.
  3. Actively stretch your arms forward. Do not let your elbows touch the floor.
  4. Slowly lower your chest towards the floor and rest your forehead on the floor or a blanket. Relax your neck as you do this. Maintain a slight curve in your lower back. For a long spinal stretch, press your hands down and extend your arms as you pull your hips toward your heels.
  5. Breathe into your back and notice the stretch in your spine. Hold the position for 5-10 deep breaths. You can let your chest sink deeper towards the mat with each exhalation.
  6. Let your buttocks sink back onto your heels and come into the child’s posture as a balance.

Common Mistakes

  • You might tend to splay your elbows and roll your shoulders inward, causing tension in your neck and shoulders. Be sure to keep your elbows in line with your wrists.
  • You may find that your knees are spread wider than your hips, which can cause pressure in your lower back and sacrum. Try to keep the knees under the hips.

Expert Tips to Improve

  • Always warm up with gentle backbends before the puppy poses, such as the cat-cow.
  • Breathe deeply into the stretch in your back, creating more space to continue bending.
  • Actively stretch your arms forward, but keep a micro-bend in your elbows to protect your joints. Don’t let your elbows touch the floor.
  • Keep your knees in line with your hips as you push your hips back.
  • Come out of the posture slowly and mindfully.

Preparatory Poses

Follow-up Poses

Variations and Modifications

Puppy pose with aids:

  • If your head does not reach the floor in the pose, you can place a yoga block or a combination of blocks and a folded blanket under your forehead and rest your head on it.
  • For added comfort, or if you have sensitive knees, place a folded blanket under your knees.
  • Wedge a rolled-up blanket or pillow between your thighs and calves to hold the position longer and protect your knees and lower back.
  • You can also place a pillow under your chest to make the pose more restful.

Puppy pose with blocks under your elbows:

Want to make it more challenging? Deepen the stretch by resting your elbows on yoga blocks and folding your hands above your head like you’re praying.

Puppy pose with a chair:

Stand facing a chair on a mat or against a wall so it doesn’t shift. Place a folded blanket on the seat of the chair. Take a step or two back. Stretch out backward while bending your upper body forward. Rest your head on the blanket and your hands on the back of the chair.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between puppy pose and child’s pose?

While the puppy pose is a backbend and actively opens the chest, the child’s pose is more passive. In it, the buttocks are on the heels, and the upper body is resting on the mat. In the puppy pose, on the other hand, the hips are held above the knees. Both postures aim at stretching the spine.

How long should you hold puppy pose?

Hold the puppy pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

Is puppy pose good for your back?

Yes, the yoga pose stretches the shoulders and lengthens the spine. It relieves back pain, improves posture, and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting.


1Gandolfi, M. G., Zamparini, F., Spinelli, A., & Prati, C. (2023). Āsana for Neck, Shoulders, and Wrists to Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders among Dental Professionals: In-Office Yóga Protocol. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology8(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk8010026

2Reina, A. M., Adams, E. V., Allison, C. K., Mueller, K. E., Crowe, B. M., & Schmid, A. A. (2020). Yoga for Functional Fitness in Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. International Journal of Yoga13(2), 156-159. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_57_19

3Deolia, S. G.; Rizhana, A., George, J., Ingle, H., Bonde, R. (2017) Effects of yoga as a therapy for physical and psychological hazards in dentists in Wardha region. Yoga Mimamsa 49(2), 68-75. https://doi.org/10.4103/ym.ym_17_17

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

Leave a Reply