Low Lunge Pose, Anjaneyasana, (aa-n-juh-ne-yaa-suh-nuh)
anjaneya (son of anjana devi) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Crescent Low Lunge Pose, Dragon Flying Low
This hip opening pose calls for proper alignment as you improve your posture and work on your balance
Low Lunge Pose is a chameleon asana that can be adapted to yoga practitioners of any level. It has a whole myriad of variations, each with their own purpose. The backbend variation of the Low Lunge is also known as the Crescent Lunge, due to the shape we create with our body as we enter the pose.
As well as being a great standalone pose, Low Lunge Pose is a part of many iconic yogic sequences, including Sun Salutation and Moon Salutation. One of the reasons it’s so popular is because it is easy to transition in and out of this asana from various yoga poses.
- Improves posture. Low Lunge Pose encourages the broadness in the shoulders, openness in the chest and length in the spine. In turn, this strengthens the muscles that help us carry our spine with a proud, open posture.
- Stretches the hips and ankles. Anjaneyasana is a great way to create extension of the hip flexor muscles. This is especially useful after poses that require intense hip engagement, such as Boat Pose or Chair Pose. This is also a great pose for runners and cyclists, because their hips are often tight as a result of the aforementioned activities. Simultaneously, the Low Lunge Pose stretches and strengthens the ankles, making you more stable on your feet.
- Improves breathing capacity. The backbend element of this pose helps the practitioner free their chest and ribcage. As a result, the breath feels easier and more rounded. This pose has a long-term effect on lung function and the cardiovascular system.
1. There are several ways to enter Anjaneyasana. One way is to start in a four-point kneeling position, with your hands aligned directly underneath the shoulders. From the kneeling position, step the right foot forward into the space between your hands. The other way to enter Low Lunge is from Downward Facing Dog. To do that, raise your right leg into Three-Legged Dog, then swing it forward to step the foot between the hands and lower the back knee. Finally, a popular way to get into this asana is from Standing Forward Bend. You simply have to step the left foot back, landing the back knee and bending the right leg.
2. Once you are in this position, check your alignment. The front knee should be directly above your ankle. Your foot should be firmly planted and pointed forward.
3. Once the lower body is in an established position, take a breath in and lift your torso. Raise your arms overhead and bring your palms together. You may choose to follow your thumbs with your gaze.
4. Open your chest forward and pull the arms back, creating a crescent shape with your body. Gently sink the hips forward, taking care not to push the front knee past the ankle.
5. Stay in Low Lunge for 5-10 breaths. Some sequences may follow it with a different Lunge variation. To exit, frame the front foot with your hands and step back into Downward Facing Dog. From there, you can get back to the pose you entered Anjaneyasana from, or perform a Vinyasa. Repeat the Low Lunge Pose on the other side of the body.
- There is a distinct difference between active and passive versions of this asana. If you engage your core and glutes, the forward motion of the hips will feel very intense. It may not appear as deep, but it really challenges your hip flexors. However, if you simply relax your hips, you could sink your hips quite low, which feels like a pleasant and satisfying stretch.
- When lifting your arms, focus on the shoulder movement. Sometimes we trick ourselves and compensate for the lack of shoulder mobility with a deeper backbend. Be mindful of your limitations. Instead of pushing your spine into an impossible position, work on the range of motion in your shoulders.
- The position of the back knee can be adjusted depending on the practitioner’s level of flexibility and goal. For example, if you are focusing on stretching the hip flexors on the back leg, slide the knee further back and sink the hips forward. However, if you are focused on the balance aspect of this asana, keep your stance more narrow to provide a steady foundation.
- Remember to keep an even curve throughout the entire spine. A common mistake is to only bend in one’s lower back and neck. Instead, try to focus on opening your thoracic spine and pulling the arms back.
- Be mindful of the front knee and ankle. The reason many yoga poses call for knee-over-ankle alignment in static poses is because that combination provides the most stability.
Low Lunge Pose Variations
Low Lunge can be quite challenging for the joints. From hips and ankles, to shoulders and even wrists, it places a certain amount of strain on our joints. One of the common complaints when it comes to Anjaneyasana is the undue amount of pressure on the back knee. This is especially relevant to the students with acute and chronic joint conditions (such as arthritis or fibromyalgia), as well as knee injuries. Even perfectly healthy yogis may opt for a blanket to make their practice more enjoyable.
This Low Lunge variation is a perfect solution for those who find it too harsh on their knees. Place a folded blanket under your back knee. This way, your joint feels better under pressure, resulting in better balance and a more pleasant experience.
Anjaneyasana mainly revolves around the hip and leg position. And although the “crescent lunge” variation is probably the most popular one, Low Lunge encompasses many other possible arm positions.
For starters, you could keep your hands planted on either side of the front foot. The challenge here is to keep your spine long and avoid rounding your shoulders. If necessary, you could lift onto your fingertips or rest your hands on a pair of blocks.
Another popular variation is to keep the hands together in a prayer mudra at the center of your heart. You can still direct your focus to the hip stretch and backbend in this position.
For an extra challenge, try reverse prayer, where your palms meet between your shoulder blades.
Finally, a simple and effective variation is to rest your hands on your hips.
Low Lunge Pose With a Quad Stretch
The more advanced level of this pose involves bending the back knee to add a stretch into your quadriceps. To do that, start by settling in Low Lunge with your hands in prayer position or at your hips. It is not recommended to have a really wide stance as it may hinder your balance and make the next step impossible.
Then, bend the back leg and squeeze the heel towards your seat. Reach back with the same-side hand (e.g. left hand to left foot) and grasp your foot or ankle. Sink your hips forward and enjoy.
If you want to challenge your balance, there is a very simple way to do that. Once you lift your torso, press into the ball of the front foot and lift your heel off the ground. Whether you are adding a backbend or a twist, this is a very effective way to improve ankle mobility and challenge yourself.
- Knee injury. Both knees perform an important function in this asana. While we ground through the back knee, the front knee keeps us steady and balanced. If you have a knee injury, be very mindful of the pressure you are putting on either knee. If necessary, perform the variation with a blanket.
- Hip flexibility. While this pose can be a great way to stretch your hip flexors, it’s important to act within your range of motion. There should be no pain or strong discomfort in the front of your hip when the leg is extended back. If that happens, make sure to ease off or exit the pose.
- Backbends. If you have a past or current spinal injury, approach this pose with caution. You may opt for a Low Lunge that doesn’t require a backbend, focusing on your lower body instead. Even if you have no reason to avoid backbends, make sure you are not “hinging” at your neck and lumbar spine. Always try to create an even curve through the entire spine.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
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