Down Dog is one of the most practiced yoga poses and one that yogis are well familiar with. But you may have heard the phrase “flip your dog” in yoga class and perhaps exchanged a puzzled glance with your yogi neighbor.
Don’t worry, flipping your dog—the transition from Down Dog to Wild Thing—is easier than it seems, as well as visually alluring and physically intriguing.
Wild Thing is a back bending asana that does require some back flexibility but not quite the level of a full Wheel pose. The in-between part is where things can get tricky, but keep an open mind and have some fun with it!
The movement from Down Dog to Wild Thing and back again is liberating. It allows for creativity and expression as you flow playfully, gracefully, or even powerfully from one pose to its counterpose.
How To Do It
1. Starting in Down Dog, lift one leg (let’s say the right) towards the ceiling into Three-Legged Dog.
2. From here, bend the lifted (right) knee and tilt the pelvis to the right, opening the hips. By now you should be able to look through the opening between the left armpit and left hip, and gazing upwards, spot the right foot.
3. Starting to flow, simultaneously drop the lifted (right) foot towards the ground while the left foot naturally swivels to the blade (toes face right, heel rests left). During this process, the right hand naturally lifts away from the ground and over to the left.
Keep reaching the lifted (right) fingertips away from the body and maybe even orient the fingertips towards the ground.
4. When the right foot lands, keep a bend in the knee and stay lifted on the ball of the foot—notice the stretch in the hip flexor. Keeping on the blade of the left foot, extend through the leg, channeling your Side Plank positioning. Let the head delicately drop and gaze past the lifted fingertips. The chest and hips reach high towards the sky, providing more backbending power.
Tips: If there’s any tension in the low back, make sure that the torso is extending in opposite directions instead of crunching the spine. If needed, inch the toes of the bent (right) leg out, away from the midline and reach the extended (right) arm straight to decrease the degree of back bend.
To protect the lower wrist, remember to lengthen through the weight-bearing arm and make sure that you’re distributing weight evenly between both feet and the grounded hand.
Also, during the transition, provide a micro-bend in the weight-bearing elbow to prevent lockout and potential injury.
If wild thing seems unapproachable, practice transitioning from Down Dog to Side Plank. This modification will help build the muscles needed to activate the full transition into Wild Thing.
Wild Thing Modification
From Side Plank, bring the sole of the top (right) foot to lightly rest on the left inner thigh or calf, coming into Tree Pose variation of Side Plank. Now, the top leg is lined up for Wild Thing, so shift the top (right) foot back behind the extended (left) leg and then ground the ball of the (right) foot. Tada, you’re in Wild Thing!
Wild Thing can be expressed in many different forms depending on flexibility and strength. The pose can be shorter (by bringing the foot of the bent leg closer to the hands and the lifted hand closer to the ground), providing more of a backbend.
Or you can elongate it for more of a core or side-body stretch. It’s important to remember that transitions are all about core supplementation—the core muscles will control and stabilize the transitions, ensuring safe movement and smooth landing.