From a pelvic floor perspective, it's another of the "opening" asanas. It creates the same basic torso line as do child's pose and downward dog, with a level of muscular engagement that's somewhere in between the two. Which means, if you ever get to a place in your practice where neither child's pose nor downward dog feels quite right for you, uttana shishosana (extended puppy pose**) may be a good asana to substitute.
Uttana Shishosana / Extended Puppy Pose
Check it out here on Yoga Journal.
- Start on your hands and knees, with your knees basically under your hips and your wrists basically under your shoulders. If you have sensitive knees, you may wish to place a blanket underneath them for padding.
- Walk your hands as far forward as you comfortably can while keeping your hips over your knees. Your thighs will remain more or less vertical. Root your palms into the earth, especially grounding through your thumbs and index fingers. Depending on your shoulder anatomy, it may be more comfortable to bring each hand a few inches wider than its shoulder.
- Keeping your arms active and elbows off the ground, lower your forehead toward the ground. If your forehead doesn't comfortably reach the ground, support it with a block or blanket to avoid pinching in your shoulders or straining in your neck.
- Lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling. At the same time, try and keep your spine in its neutral position and your lower back relaxed -- even if that means you don't get quite the same reach/angle with your hip bones.
- Breathe into your spine, feeling your arms reaching forward in front of you as your sit bones and tailbones lengthen back behind you. How long you want to stay in the pose may depend on whether it's a more vigorous or restorative pose for you.
- One way to exit extended puppy is to slid your hips back to child's pose, then press up to sitting.
Only one video this time, but it is really excellent. (It would be even more excellent if it were captioned, but videos of this pose are hard to come by.)
As The Pragmatic Yogi (which is generally kind of awesome, BTW) notes, puppy can be a useful alternative to child's pose if the more closed knee, hip, and low back angles of balasana are not working for your body. You can also use a bolster or other cushioning for a more supportive and restorative version of the pose.
On the flip side, extended puppy can also be a good alternative to downward dog, particularly if you have shoulder or wrist issues that tend to make down dog (or holding down dog for a long-ish time) uncomfortable. (Or foot issues. For reasons that I cannot fathom, I get a lot of foot cramps during my practice. Being on my knees in puppy instead of on my feet in down dog can alleviate those cramps.) Additionally, because the knees are very bent, the hamstrings are more relaxed. This increases the freedom of motion in the pelvis, making it easier to roll the sit bones toward the ceiling and figure out what your proper pelvic position is for this pose -- which then makes it easier to take that knowledge into downward dog.
You can guess, I'm sure, where we're going next from here. (noodz, yes. Now you are right.) ;)
** The Sanskrit, I realize, does not translate literally. You may also find this refered to in English as "half downward dog" or "half dog," though not every pose that uses the "half" descriptor refers to this particular variation.
PS -- In case you've missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here.