When you are head down-bum up, it can be hard to tell where you are on your mat — let alone whether or not you are aligned and ready to go deeper in particular postures.
There are three very important alignment mishaps in Three-Legged Dog Pose and each one can lead you astray in the posture. With the risk of torquing your low back, not engaging your lifted hip and mangling your shoulders, this pose is no joke and shouldn’t be practiced haphazardly!
So here are the three most common misalignments in Three-Legged Dog Pose and how to fix or avoid them for a safer asana practice.
1. Feet Running Amok
This posture is still Downward Facing Dog and as such, it should be reminiscent of that posture. If your feet start changing direction, your hips will be misaligned, your back will be tweaked, and your shoulders will become unhappy.
If you plan on stacking the hips for Flip dog or some other variation then yes, step the standing foot to the center of your mat to help the twist happen. But for a simple Three-Legged Dog, stay strong, balanced and safe, and keep the feet somewhere around hips-width as you lift the leg up.
How To Fix It: turn your toes slightly inward so that the hips are already internally rotated and are set up for success. Then lift the leg keeping the feet wide, that way the hips stay aligned and the low back won’t be twisted.
2. Hips Stacking
This is when rather then keeping the two hips level, the hip of the lifted leg rises up higher. This common misalignment can lead to an achy back and will discourage the strength-building action through the hips.
How To Fix It: Try flexing your lifted foot (this is juicier for the hamstrings too). Then mindfully drop the hip of the lifted leg down. It is harder, but it is safer.
3. Hands Raising
As we lift the leg, one or both of our hands often pry up off the mat and leave us perched on fingertips. This specifically happens on the same side that the leg is lifting up and is more accentuated when we curve the lifted leg over in what is sometimes referred to as Scorpion Dog Pose.
It is merely how we attempt to gain more height with the knee and foot, and an added stretch along the ribs, but it puts added pressure on the tiny bones in the hands and will make your shoulders twist — something you do NOT want to do when there is weight on them.
How To Fix It: Set your intention on pressing into the hand as a whole and then purposefully think about moving the weight over towards the muscle of the thumb and pointer fingers (this is also a great exercise in all your Down Dog variations if you have sore wrists from yoga).
Fix up these three misalignments and your Three-Legged Dog will surely strengthen your hips, stretch out your side body, and engage your core more then it already does. Namaste, yogis!