Half-Dog Pose is a gentle yoga stretch that is perfect for for those who are new to yoga, or who have limited mobility or are recovering from an injury.
If you have hand or wrist problems, hypertension, vertigo, or limited shoulder mobility, Half-Dog Pose (Ardha Adho Makha Svanasana) is a great alternative to the classic Downward-Facing Dog Pose. This version allows you to start gently increasing your flexibility until you can perform the full pose. This pose generally requires a wall to lean against, but otherwise it can be done anywhere. If you don’t have a wall available, you can also perform this pose with your hands resting on a desk or countertop, or the back or seat of a chair.
Half-Dog stretches the shoulders, arms, back, hips, and legs in a gentle manner without putting stress on the lower back, which makes it helpful for back pain as well as general stress and muscle tension. This is also a great pose to do when traveling or if you need a break from sitting at your desk, as it provides a great all-over body stretch that you can do anywhere, without having to get down on the floor.
If you have difficulty with wrist flexibility, you can perform the pose with just your fingertips touching the wall. Note that although most people should be able to perform this gentle pose, if you have significant rotator cuff issues, you may need to work with a qualified instructor to find a good modification that does not aggravate the problem.
How to Do Half Dog Pose:
- Stand facing a wall, about one foot away. Place your hands on the wall so they are at either at shoulder height for less flexible people (lessening the impact and strain on the hamstrings, lower back and shoulders) or anywhere below shoulder height down to elbow height for more flexible people (which will result in a 90 degree angle at the hip joint). Press your hands firmly into the wall, mentally gluing them in place.
- Bend your knees a bit and slowly walk your feet away from the wall. Keeping your hips positioned over your feet, gradually walk out until your arms are straight and form a long line with your torso and belly. Push your arms strongly towards the wall, while creating an upward lift from your knees to your hips.
- You can gradually straighten your knees as long as it doesn’t cause pain in your lower back.
- Stay in the pose for 14-16 breaths, and then walk back toward wall to come up and out. (Newer practitioners should start out with about six breaths in the pose and work their way up to one to two minutes.)
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