Puppy Pose (Anahatasana): Steps, Benefits, and Contraindications

Puppy Pose (Anahatasana or Heart Melting Pose) - SharpMuscle
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Puppy Pose, also known as Anahatasana or Heart Melting Pose, stretches and opens the chest, shoulders, and upper back, while strengthening arms, shoulders, and core.

Information

Known as:Puppy Pose, Anahatasana, Heart Melting Pose, Puppy Dog Pose, Half Dog Pose, Uttana Shishosana, Yin Yoga Melting Heart Pose
Sanskrit name:अनाहतासन
IAST:Anāhatāsana
Pronunciation:A-nuh-ha-ta-suh-nuh
Type:Inversion, stretch, forward bend, heart-opener
Level:Beginner
Focus:Chest, shoulders, upper back
Total time:30 seconds to 5 minutes
Drishti:Either on the mat or slightly forward
Chakra:Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra, Anahata (Heart) Chakra, Swadisthana (Sacral) Chakra, Muladhara (Root) Chakra
Indications:Chest, shoulders, upper back, spinal alignment, core, stress, relaxation, emotional balance, compassion, lung capacity
Counterposes:Balasana (Child’s Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjaryasana (Cat Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Preparatory poses:Balasana (Child’s Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Follow-up poses:Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose), Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) Arms, Sphinx Pose or Seal Pose, Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Contraindications:Neck, shoulder, or knee injury; Recent surgery of the back, thighs, or knees; Knee pain

Meaning

The name “Anahatasana” is derived from the Sanskrit, which is made of two words — Anahata + Asana:

  1. Anahata” = “heart” or “unstruck” or “unbeaten”
  2. Asana” = “pose” or “posture”

Anahatasana is often translated as “Puppy Pose” in English.

The name “Anahatasana” symbolically refers to the Anahata Chakra, which is the fourth primary energy center or “chakra” located in the heart region according to yogic philosophy. The word “Anahata” represents the sound that is produced without any striking or beating, signifying the inner sound or resonance that arises from within oneself.

In the context of the pose, Anahatasana, the name is associated with the energetic qualities that the asana aims to activate in the heart center. It represents the opening and expansion of the chest, creating space and releasing any emotional blockages. The asana encourages a sense of surrender, vulnerability, and receptivity, allowing the practitioner to tap into the deeper aspects of the heart and cultivate qualities such as compassion, love, and connection.

Benefits of Puppy Pose (Anahatasana)

The asana “Anahatasana” or Puppy Pose offers a range of physical, mental and emotional benefits, which are listed below:

Physical Benefits:

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders, and core
  • Stretches and opens the chest, shoulders, and upper back
  • Releases the tension and improves the flexibility in chest, shoulders, and upper back
  • Improves the posture, elongates the spine, and relieves compression in the vertebral column
  • Alleviating lower back discomfort
  • Enhances the stability and tones the the upper body
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Mental and Emotional Benefits:

  • Improves the mental clarity and focus
  • Calm the mind
  • Deepen the mind-body connection
  • Reduces the stress
  • Promote a sense of inner peace and tranquility
  • Cultivate feelings of self-acceptance, empathy, and connectedness with others
  • Releases the tension in the upper body

Puppy Pose (Anahatasana) Practice Guide

Puppy Pose (Anahatasana) involves a gentle forward fold with the chest reaching towards the ground while keeping the hips lifted. It is a variation of Child’s Pose (Balasana) and Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). In this asana, the arms are extended forward, and the forehead may rest on the ground or on a prop for support.

This asana provides a deep stretch for the shoulders, upper back, and spine, while also opening the chest and heart center. The asana helps to release tension and tightness in the upper body, especially in the shoulders and neck. The asana elongates the spine and creates space in the vertebral column, promoting better posture and alignment.

Anahatasana is often practiced as a gentle heart opener, stimulating the Anahata (Heart) Chakra. It can evoke feelings of surrender, vulnerability, and compassion, allowing practitioners to connect with their emotional center. The asana also promotes relaxation and can be used as a resting posture during the asana practice, providing a moment of calm and grounding.

Puppy Pose is accessible to various levels of practitioners, and modifications can be made to suit individual needs. It is typically practiced as part of a vinyasa flow sequence, during a yin yoga practice, or as a standalone pose for stretching and releasing tension in the upper body.

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Begin by assuming the kneeling position or Vajrasana, sitting with your hands resting on your thighs.
  2. Exhale and gently bend forward until your head touches the ground. Slide your hands along the floor in front of you, moving them above your head with palms facing downwards and touching the floor. You can rest your entire forearm on the floor for support.
  3. Lift your hips while slightly arching your back backward. Aim to maintain a 90-degree angle between your thighs and lower legs, creating a gentle arch in your spine.
  4. Allow your forehead to make contact with the ground.
  5. If possible, rest your upper chest on the floor, but remember that it is not necessary. Avoid straining and perform the asanas within your comfort zone.
  6. Breathe naturally and slowly in this final position. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to 5 minutes or as long as it feels comfortable for you.
  7. To release the pose, slide your hands back and transition into the child’s pose or Balasana by lowering your hips. You can remain in Balasana for a few moments, as it is a beneficial resting pose. Return to the kneeling position and take a few slow, deep breaths.
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Common Mistakes

Watch out the common mistakes when practicing the asana “Anahatasana” or Puppy Pose. The common mistakes can hinder the benefits of the asana and potentially lead to discomfort or strain. However, the common mistakes of this yoga asana are explained below:

1. Collapsed Shoulders

One common mistake is allowing the shoulders to collapse towards the ground instead of actively engaging and drawing them away from the ears. This can restrict the opening of the chest and limit the stretch in the upper back.

Collapsed shoulders can occur due to weakness or lack of awareness in the shoulder muscles, or from trying to force the asana too deeply without proper engagement.

Focus on actively pressing the hands into the ground and drawing the shoulder blades down the back. Imagine creating space between the shoulder blades to open the chest and maintain a stable and supported position.

2. Rounded Upper Back

Another mistake is rounding the upper back and hunching forward instead of maintaining a gentle arch in the spine. This reduces the effectiveness of the asana in stretching the chest and shoulders.

Rounded upper back can be caused by tightness in the chest and shoulders or a lack of core engagement to support the backbend.

Engage the core muscles to support the lengthening of the spine and encourage a gentle arch. Focus on lifting the sternum forward and maintaining a long line from the tailbone to the crown of the head.

3. Sinking Hips

Allowing the hips to sink towards the heels instead of actively lifting them can limit the stretch in the back and reduce the lengthening of the spine.

Sinking hips often occur due to lack of core engagement and awareness in the pose or an attempt to relax too deeply into the posture.

Keep the engagement in the core muscles and actively lift the hips upward while maintaining a 90-degree angle between the thighs and lower legs. This helps to create length and space in the spine and promotes a more effective stretch.

4. Straining the Neck

Straining the neck by forcing the head too far down or extending it excessively can cause discomfort and strain in the cervical spine.

Straining the neck can occur due to lack of awareness, trying to achieve a deeper stretch without proper alignment, or neglecting to release tension in the neck muscles.

Keep the neck in a neutral position, aligning it with the rest of the spine. Avoid excessive tilting or extending the head and focus on keeping the neck relaxed and tension-free. If needed, use props such as blocks or blankets to support the forehead and maintain a comfortable position.

Modifications and Variations

The modifications and variations of “Anahatasana” or Puppy Pose are explaining below:

Modifications
  1. Support for the Forehead: If reaching the ground with the forehead is challenging, a folded blanket or bolster can be placed under the forehead for support. This modification helps to maintain proper alignment and reduces strain on the neck.
  2. Support for the Hips: If there is discomfort or tightness in the knees or ankles, placing a folded blanket or bolster under the hips can provide support and help to ease the pressure on the joints.
  3. Use of Props: Props such as blocks or bolsters can be used to bring the floor closer to the hands, allowing for a more comfortable and accessible stretch. These props can be placed under the hands to reduce the distance between the hands and the floor.
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Variations
  1. Extended Arms Variation: Instead of sliding the hands forward, the arms can be extended straight ahead with the palms resting on the ground. This variation increases the intensity of the stretch in the shoulders and chest.
  2. Puppy Dog Tilt Variation: In this variation, the hips are kept closer to the heels while extending the arms forward and resting the chest closer to the ground. This variation provides a different angle of stretch in the shoulders and upper back.
  3. Supported Puppy Pose Variation: By placing a bolster or stack of blankets under the chest, the upper body is supported, allowing for a more gentle and restorative version of the asana. This variation is beneficial for those with limited flexibility or who prefer a more relaxing approach.

Precautions and Contraindications

Always prioritize your safety and well-being during your yoga practice. Precautions and contraindications are crucial considerations to ensure safe and appropriate practice of the asana “Anahatasana” or Puppy Pose, especially for individuals with specific conditions or injuries.

The precautions and contraindications of this yoga asana are explained below:

1. Neck, Shoulder, or Knee Injury

If you have any existing neck, shoulder, or knee injuries, it’s crucial to approach Heart Melting Pose with caution. The asana involves stretching and putting pressure on these areas, which may exacerbate the injury or cause discomfort.

Injuries to the neck, shoulder, or knee can involve inflammation, instability, or limited range of motion. Putting strain on these areas in Puppy Pose can potentially worsen the condition or impede the healing process.

It’s advisable to avoid or modify the asana if you have a neck, shoulder, or knee injury. Focus on gentle movements and modifications that do not aggravate the affected areas. Consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor/teacher for personalized guidance and modifications that suit your specific condition.

2. Recent Surgery of the Back, Thighs, or Knees

After undergoing recent surgery in the back, thighs, or knees, it’s crucial to follow the post-operative guidelines provided by your healthcare professional. These guidelines often include avoiding certain movements, stretches, or weight-bearing activities during the initial stages of recovery.

Recent surgery requires a healing period, and certain asanas like Anahatasana may place strain on the healing tissues or compromise the surgical site. Premature or improper engagement in these asanas can hinder the healing process and increase the risk of complications.

Respect the healing process and follow the guidance provided by your healthcare professional. Avoid engaging in asanas like Heart Melting Pose until you have fully recovered and received clearance from your healthcare team.

3. Severe Knee Pain

If you experience severe knee pain, Puppy Pose may not be suitable for you. The asana places pressure on the knees, and practicing it with existing knee pain can exacerbate the discomfort or potentially cause further injury.

Severe knee pain can be indicative of underlying knee conditions such as ligament tears, cartilage damage, or inflammation. Engaging in poses that stress the knees, like Anahatasana, can strain the joint and worsen the pain.

It’s advisable to avoid or modify Heart Melting Pose if you have severe knee pain. Instead, focus on asanas and exercises that provide gentle knee mobilization and strengthen the surrounding muscles without exacerbating the pain. Consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified yoga instructor/teacher for appropriate modifications and alternatives.

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