This is a pose that most people practiced long before they ever stepped foot on a yoga mat. So, why include it in this series focused on proper alignment and sequencing?
Well, while we can all benefit from it, very few of us practice it with enough regularity to effect change. The muscles at the front of the thigh and hip get tight from sitting all day. But, they also get tight from a lot of exercise. So, whether you are a desk jockey, an athlete or some combination of the two, you can benefit from the regular practice of lunges.
Below are three variations you can rotate between. Try practicing one of them every day.
In all three variations, pay meticulous attention to the alignment of the front knee and shin. The front foot should be far enough forward to ensure that:
1. The front shin stays perpendicular to the floor, and
2. The front knee stays directly above the ankle and in line with the middle toe.
The high lunge, as traditionally practiced in Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), is a great place to start.
Each time you practice a high lunge focus on drawing the pelvis downward toward the floor, while the inner thigh of the back leg pushes up toward the ceiling. These opposing actions will help to release tension in the front thigh and hip.
Stay in high lunge, with this focus, for three to five breaths before continuing your sun salutation or switching to the other side.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge, Variation)
To move a little deeper, from the high lunge, slowly bend the back knee and place it on the mat or a folded blanket.
To move the weight of the back leg off of the kneecap, tuck the toes of the back foot under, lift the knee up, draw it toward the back foot and then place it back on the mat or blanket.
If the weight of that leg is now resting above the kneecap, and you’re comfortable and ready for more, experiment with bending the back knee and bringing the foot toward your hips. Continue dropping the hips toward the floor.
Finally, if you’re comfortable and able to do more, grab a hold of the back foot with same side hand (e.g., left foot, left hand) and draw it closer to the hips.
Hold this pose for three to five breaths on each side.
Several times a week, you may want to experiment with a moving lunge. Begin in Tadasana (mountain). Bring your hands to your hips and step the left foot back for a lunge. (For more support, stand with the left side of your body at a wall and place your left hand on the wall.)
On an exhale, drop the left knee toward the floor. Lower it as close to the floor as you can, without actually letting it touch the floor. Make sure your stance is wide enough (the right shin should be perpendicular to the floor). Slide the right foot forward if necessary.
On and inhale, straighten and raise the left knee back to neutral. The back leg should initiate all of the movement. The front leg “receives” the action as you raise and lower the back knee.
Repeat 5 – 10 times on each side.
P.S. This post is part of a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for additional posts in this series.
When was the last time you practiced a lunge? I’d love to hear about your adventures with these variations!