Low lunge yoga pose is a great way to stretch the muscles that work on the back of the hip (the hip extensors).
With one leg forward, and the other back, focus on sinking the chest down towards the floor.
You can start with the back knee on the floor.
But to add weight to the hip extensor stretch, lift the back knee.
In the picture to the right I'm doing low lunge with the top of my back foot on the floor.
You can also do it with the toes of the back foot tucked forwards.
This pose has a similiar effect to a hamstring stretch except that it stretches the single joint muscles that open the front of the hip.
The hamstrings cross both the back of the hip joint and the back of the knee. To stretch them the front knee in this pose would have to be straight.
If you find hamstring stretches difficult, you may find it helpful to start with low lunge. You'll then be reasonably sure that the restriction in your hamstring stretches is actually the hamstrings and not the single joint hip extensors muscles.
Generally in low lunge, position the front foot far enough forwards (or back) so that the front of the knee is just in front of the front of the ankle.
A general assumption is that having the front knee too far ahead of the foot is bad for the knee. That may or may not be true.
If you do find that you get knee pain try adjusting the position of the front foot. Additionally, try to activate the front foot. You can also try activating the muscles of the inner and outer thigh and hip.
I use three main arm positions when doing low lunge.
The first is with the hands on the floor and elbows straight.
In this variation you can focus on sinking your hips.
The next variation is to rest the elbows on the floor. Here again you can focus on sinking your pelvis.
The final arm variation is to have the hands on the floor and then bend the elbows so that your chest can sink down.
In all three of the arm variations you can choose to keep your back knee on the floor or you can lift the back knee.
Lifting the back knee adds weight to the stretch helping your pelvis to sink down.
Low lunge with back knee on the floor and with knee lifted.
Sometimes I start with the knee on the floor and then lift it.
On other occasions I slowly lift and lower the knee, relaxing the leg each time I rest the knee on the floor.
If you find that your breath rate is fast then just focus on doing this last option slowly and smoothly without worrying about breath/movement synchronization. You may find that your breathing slows as a result of your slow movements.
If you can breathe slowly then if you choose synchronize your knee movements with your breath.
I prefer to lift the knee while inhaling. However this can change.
To get from arm position one to arm position 2 (elbows on the floor) you may find it easier if you put your back leg elbow on the floor first. (If you right leg is back then put your right elbow on the floor first.) Then from there let your left elbow sink down.
Try to keep the front knee from winging out. Or, focus on pulling the front knee inwards once you do get both elbows on to the floor.
One keep to getting the chest to the floor on the final arm variation is to focus on relaxing the arms. The more you relax your arms the more your chest will sink down. To turn this into a push up preparation, repeat the following sequence:
You could also lift the knee first and then bend the elbows.
If you choose to synchronize these movements with your breath, you could start with an inhale. Then your knee lift is accompanies by an exhale. Or do the opposite and start with an exhale. Depending on how you feel you may find that one option suits you better on any given day.
When using your arms to lower and lift your ribcage try to keep your neck long. Reach your ears away from your shoulders. So that your shoulder blades are stable and give your arms a firm foundation try to keep your shoulder blades spread as you lift and lower your ribcage.
Your shoulder blades will move closer together as your bend your arms but focus on trying to keep them apart so that your serratus anterior muscle on both sides is active.
So that you can lift your knee slowly and smoothly focus on pressing your back foot down into the foot. Focus on gradually increasing the downward pressure of your foot.
If you apply pressure gradually enough you'll feel the increase in tension in your leg, notably the front of your thigh. Increase it enough and you'll feel the point where your knee is just about to leave the floor. Hold here of lift just a little bit higher. Then lower and then totally relax your foot.
You don't have to straighten your knee. You will ideally find that just lifting your knee, or even just slightly pushing down with your back foot adds enough weight to low lunge yoga pose to stretch hip extensors of the front leg.
The position of the front leg in Low lunge is very similiar to that in Marichyasana A and Marichyasana B. As such it could be used as a preparation for those two poses. Two marichyasana variations that could be used as substitutes for low lunge are shown below.
The posture in the first picture above could be called Marichyasana E. The second yoga posture pictured is a modificaiton of Marichyasana B
Happy baby pose, whether upright or reclining, is another option or substitute for low lunge.
For a more intense low lunge experience you can do it with your back shin against a wall. This then stretches the hip flexors as well as the hip extensors.
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