PAWSitive Reinforcement: 7 Yoga Poses Inspired by Your Pup

Woman in downward facing dog yoga pose with puppy

Have you ever watched your dog stretch in the morning? If so, then you know why we call that iconic pose Downward-Facing Dog. Hang around a dog long enough and you’ll be reminded of some yoga-related health benefits:

  • Present moment awareness and single-pointed focus: Dogs have the amazing ability to always be in the now and be completely content being there.
    • Dog thoughts: “The ball. The Ball. THE BALL!”
  • Forgiveness and letting go of resentment: Ever notice how when you leave for the day your dog is utterly and completely depressed? Those sad eyes tell the whole story.
    • Dog thoughts: “She’s never coming back. I’m alone forever. This is finally IT. The worst has happened.”
  • And when you return (whether it’s 15 minutes later or 15 days later), it’s THE BEST day of their lives.
    • Dog thoughts: “YOU CAME BACK! I love you and I’m so happy and you’re the best and the world is an amazing place and you’re home!!”
  • Play: Studies show that play can relieve stress, improve brain function, boost creativity, improve relationships and connection, and boost energy. No one plays better than a pup.
    • Dog thoughts: “Doesn’t matter how I look [ridiculous], it’s about how I feel [amazing].”
  • The pleasure of using all the senses: Dogs are known for having keen senses and even work as guides, therapists, companions, search-and-rescue dogs, military dogs, police canines, and airport security dogs because of their abilities. If you smell (sniff), taste (lick), touch (rub, scratch, roll), see (you’re home!) and hear (howwwwwwl) with as much awareness as your dog, you’ll be tuned into the world in a very mindful way.

Here are some yoga poses inspired by puppies. And after you practice, don’t forget to give yourself a treat. Now that’s pawsitive reinforcement!

Puppy Pose (Anahatasana)

Woman in yoga puppy pose

Dog thoughts: “Let’s playyyyy!”

Try it:

  • Come to hands and knees.
  • Keeping your hips and tailbone lined up over your knees, reach your arms forward and lower your chest toward the ground.
  • Allow your back to arch slightly while keeping the low abs toned.
  • Rest your forehead or chin on the ground or a block.
  • Work your arms straight and lift your elbows off the ground.
  • Allow your chest to relax and your shoulder blades to come closer together on your back.
  • Hold the pose for three to five breaths.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Woman in downward facing dog yoga poseDog in down dog pose

Dog thoughts: “Ohhhh yeahhhh!”

Try it:

  • Come to hand and knees.
  • Bring your hands as wide as your shoulders.
  • Spread your hands wide and press down through your palms.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your knees up.
  • Lift your tailbone and press your chest back toward your knees.
  • Relax your head and neck.
  • Work on elongating your spine, even if that means bending your knees.
  • Hold the pose for three to five breaths.
  • Option: “Wag your tail” by swaying your heels and hips side to side to stretch your sides.

Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdva Mukha Svanasana)

Woman in upward facing dog yoga poseDog in upward facing dog yoga pose

Dog thoughts: “Arrrrrrrrrrrr yes, bring on the day!”

Try it:

  • Come to your belly.
  • Bring your hands under your shoulders.
  • Extend your legs long behind you and press the tops of your feet into the earth.
  • Roll your shoulder blades closer together on your back.
  • Press into your palms, extend your arms, and lift your chest, torso and pelvis up. Roll your shoulders back and lengthen your neck.
  • Engage your lower abdominal muscles and quadriceps to work your legs straight.
  • Hold the pose for three to five breaths.

Sundial/Compass Pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana)

Woman in compass sundial yoga poseDog in compass yoga pose

Dog thoughts: “Umm, hmm, because I can?”

Try it:

  • Warm up
  • Come to sit.
  • Bend your left knee, let it fall out to the side, and bring your foot in toward the centerline.
  • Hold onto your right foot with your left hand and bring your right hand under your right ankle.
  • Lift your right leg up and bring it over your shoulder like you’re putting on a backpack.
  • Extend your right leg open and out to the side.
  • Reach your right arm in front of your right leg and place your hand or fingers on the earth.
  • Lift your left elbow up and work your head under your arm.
  • Extend your left arm.
  • Hold the pose for three to five breaths.
  • Repeat on the second side.

Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

Woman in happy baby yoga pose

Dog thoughts: “It’s hot and I’m ridiculous.”

Try it:

  • Come onto your back.
  • Hug your knees up toward your shoulders.
  • Reach up for your feet. If your feet feel far away, reach for your ankles or the backs of your thighs.
  • Press your tailbone down and forward and work your low back closer to the ground.
  • Pull down with your arms as you push up with your feet.
  • Hold the pose for three to five breaths.
  • Option: Rock side to side if that feels good.

Supine Twist Pose (Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana)

Dog thoughts: “Ugh.”

Try it:

  • Come onto your back.
  • Hug your knees into your chest.
  • Reach your arms out to your sides like a “T.”
  • Let both knees come down to the right side and adjust for more comfort.
  • If it’s comfortable for your neck, turn your head to the left.
  • Hold the pose for five to ten breaths.
  • Return to center and repeat on the left.

Supported Fetal POSE

Woman in supported fetal yoga poseDog in supported fetal yoga pose

Dog thoughts: “Shhh, I’m sleeping and I feel cozy, and this is the smallest I can possibly be.”

Try it:

  • Come onto your back.
  • Hug your knees into your chest.
  • Roll over onto your right side.
  • Snuggle your knees into you and use your bottom arm like a pillow. Use your top hand as a support in front of you.
  • Hold for five to ten breaths.
  • Roll back to center and repeat on the left.

Learn practices that will guide you toward healthier choices at our Perfect Health program. Learn More.


 

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About the Author
woman smiling in yoga pose

Lena Schmidt

Certified Yoga Instructor
Whether it’s exploring the local trails, playing pretzel on the yoga mat, or diving into a book on inner peace, Lena loves an adventure. You can find her teaching yoga in San Diego, leading retreats near and far, and empowering others to be the change they wish to see in the world. Learn more about Lena at www.yoginilena.com The spiritual aspects of yoga have aided Lena in the never-ending search for peace, calm, and positivity within, and she’s passionate about sharing these tools with others. She is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression...Read more