Sometimes my yoga content is influenced by real life. Whether it’s my own practice, questions in the comments, or like today real-life things I’ve seen in multiple clients recently. So today we’re talking about bird dog. On the surface, it seems an easy yoga pose, but it can be challenging for beginners as we’re asking for balance, strength, and stability. But for those practiced yogi’s it can also be a challenge to stay focused and controlled. Particularly for the over bendy people! So let’s have a bird dog tutorial, and 3 things to be mindfully aware of in the pose.
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Bird dog tutorial
Again, seems like a simple pose. But it can have it’s own challenges. Especially for those with balance issues. I’m going to admit that if my vertigo is bad this is the extent of my balance practice. It gives us balance, strength and stability all in one bundle. It’s also a great prep pose for warrior 3!
To start this bird dog tutorial begin on hands and knees. Find stability here on all fours first! Adjusting and modifying as needed here for comfort. My preference is to teach this in three layers.
- From all fours extend the right leg back. Allowing for three points of contact on the floor. Repeat with the left leg.
- After exploring the legs, then keep the knees planted and extend one arm forward, again exploring one arm then the other.
- Then, experiment with the balance of first extending a leg, then the opposite arm. Hold for 6-8 breaths if possible to experience the pose before switching to the other side.
Doing the bird dog tutorial this way really helps us somatically experience the pose. Does it feel different balancing the legs only? Arms only? Is that different right to left? Really spend time in each position to feel it.
Bird Dog tips & tricks
So you’ve nailed the bird dog tutorial, but the pose just feels a bit “off”? Here are three things to check for mindfulness and progress in the pose. Firstly it’s the position of the hand and knee connected to the floor. Honestly, this is usually a beginner problem with a lack of body awareness and position. Also, it comes from the old cue of “hands under shoulders, knees under hips”. Bottom line, if the distance between the hand and knee is too short, then the balance is gonna be very difficult. Instead, lengthen and widen that distance. It’ll also allow more extension through the spine!
Secondly, we have the ballet back foot. If you’re prone to pointing the toes in this position try it with the ankle flexed. While not a big difference flexing the foot energizes the leg. Also notice that flexing the ankle allows for length in the calf! Was that something you were avoiding?
So we’ve mentioned the hands, and feet so next on the list is the hip! Admittedly this image below happens more than I’d like in my own practice. It’s a position of too much. It’s often seen in the over bendy or over-enthusiastic. Too bendy and we have no idea how high we’re lifting the leg that our pelvis and hips have gotten destabilized. Too enthusiastic that we think higher is better. You’ll know this is not mindful as flexing your ankle will turn the toes out to the sidewall rather than the floor.
To counter this I often use imagery of two glasses of expensive wine, one positioned on each side of the pelvis. Move slowly, and in a way that the wine doesn’t spill! Because it’s expensive and you’re buying!!! This really makes you THINK about the movement!
Finally, as a bonus, one thing I recommend is to try the pose at the wall. From the bird dog tutorial to the 3 mindfulness tips the wall provides tremendous feedback. It gives us the reaching back with the heel, tactile sensation of where our foot and our pelvis are. Try it!
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- Have you tried bird dog pose?
- Were you guilty of any of the unminful movements?
- Do you tend towards being overbendy or tight?