Wild Thing vs Flip Dog: What’s the Difference Between These Two Poses?

A common question I get from yoga students is about Wild Thing vs Flip Dog… what is the difference between these two poses?  Let’s first start with their commonalities.  Both of these postures are backbends, where the spine is in extension, but the degree of backbend (usually) differs in each of these poses.  Both poses are also balances where the individual is baring weight on just one hand (with both feet on the earth).  The shape of the legs and feet, however, is quite different in each of these poses, including each pose’s variation that might follow its initial expression.  In wild thing, the legs and feet are asymmetrical while in filp dog, they are symmetrical. 

In this black and white collage, you can see in the first two photos of wild thing pose (the 1st being the initial expression with the right leg leg bent and the 2nd being the expression with the right leg straight).  The toes, while of course pointing in the same direction as the knees, are pointing in different directions with respect to right and left feet.  And the left foot is (usually) not completely flat onto the ground but rather pressing firmly into the pinky side knife edge of the foot.  The reason the feet are doing different things has to do with what the legs are doing. In both the 1st and 2nd photos of wild thing, the front leg (pictured here as left leg) is rotated externally in the hip and the back leg (pictured here as right leg) is internally rotated in the hips.

 For flip dog, the legs are symmetrical and the thighs are internally rotated.  If you look at the 3rd and 4th photos in the collage of flip dog and wheel pose, you will see the toes point in the same direction on both sets of right and left feet- in other words, the feet are parallel to each other and the legs are doing the same thing on right and left sides (seen in above photos of flip dog and wheel, respectively).

To help you understand these postures a little better, consider the starting positions for each. For Wild Thing, you’ll {typically} start in side plank where your hips are about in line with your shoulders (see photo on the left).

For Flip Dog, you’ll {typically} start in downward facing dog where your hips are well above the height of your shoulders (see photo on the right).  And in the final expression of each respective posture, the hips are at different degrees of height. You’ll notice (and hopefully feel in your own body) how the hips are lifted higher in flip dog than in wild thing.

Here is the initial expression of the wild thing, where the leg that moved up and over (landing off of the mat) stays bent with the leg in about a 90 degree angle.  And, like mentioned earlier, t’s good to note that on the stationary foot (on the mat), the big toe side is usually lifted, with the pinky side edge of the foot firmly pressing into the mat (which you cannot see very well in the photo here).

Here, you can see a photo of the flip dog pose… which is really like a one armed wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasana).  The leg that came off of the mat is similar to that of the same leg in wild thing… it’s the stationary leg that has changed shapes.  In flip dog, the leg on the mat adjusts to bend at a 90 degree angle making both legs parallel to each other.

A variation of the wild thing is where the leg off of the mat straightens completely like in this photo here.  To find this variation, you will start in the initial expression of wild thing and then adjust the pose in order to straighten the leg off of the mat.

A variation of the flip dog is where the arm that initially extends overhead plants next to the

grounded hand at a distance of about shoulder width apart (and the grounded hand has to first adjust to face the opposite direction… towards the feet) and this expression becomes wheel pose.  It should be noted that not only is wheel is an advanced pose that requires a lot of opening and warm up in various areas of the body to move into it safely, but the transition from flip dog into wheel is particularly tricky and should be taught and practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher if trying this out for the first time (or few).  In each of these poses, we want to find continual lift in our heart space and firm grounding though hand(s) and feet while maintaining a constant flow of prana (think smooth and steady breathing) and slow transitions in and out of poses.  I also recommend engaging mula bandha in these poses (including while transitioning in and out of them).

It is always a good idea to address specific asana related questions directly to your teacher in person so that you can be certain of proper alignment and staying safe in your practice.  Come see us for class at Yoga For All Beings to learn more about the wonderful world of asana and so much more that the yoga practice has to offer.  Our current class schedule can be viewed here.

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