Anjaneyasana (low lunge) can feel graceful and empowering when we find the version of the pose that both challenges and supports our bodies well. Even if the traditional variation of the pose isn't feeling good for you, you can choose a different variation and still receive these benefits:
- stretches the inner thighs (front leg in the pose)
- opens the hips
- stretches the psoas muscles (also called the hip flexors, which originate in your lower back and wrap all the way around to the front of your pelvis/groin area) - these muscles often become shortened and tight when we spend lots of time sitting down, and this can cause us problems like back pain and lower body instability
- balances the sacral chakra - svadhisthana chakra
- grounds the body and mind
- challenges our balance (with the exception of the chair and supine variations)
- energizes the body
From uttanasana (standing forward bend), generously bend your knees and plant the palms of your hands into the floor. Step back with your right foot, landing on the toes. Lower your right knee to the floor and uncurl the toes. Make sure that your left knee is directly over your left ankle. Firmly root into your lower body. Square your hips - externally rotating the hip of your left leg (backward motion) and internally rotating the hip of your right leg (forward motion). We want the hips to be even - think parallel with the front of the mat. Engage your core muscles to stabilize and protect your lower back. Once you feel stable in your lower body, lift your chest, lengthen your spine. You can choose to extend the arms overhead or you can bring them together at your heart or you can rest your hands on top of your left knee. Hold for five to ten deep breaths, and then practice on the opposite side.
ADJUSTING YOUR POSITION
This stretch can feel pretty intense for the psoas (hip flexors) and quads. If you feel an overstretched sensation, pinching or pulling, you may need to adjust the distance between your front foot and your back knee. Shortening your stance will lessen the intensity of the stretch and may also help you to feel more stable and balanced.
You can cushion your back knee and shin with a blanket to make this pose more comfortable.
Adding blocks under your hands will help you to balance in the pose more easily. This will in turn help you to focus on lengthening your spine and sinking evenly into your hips.
If you have sensitive knees or struggle to balance, this chair variation will help you to safely practice this pose while still conditioning your strength, flexibility and balance. For this variation, you'll need a flat-bottomed chair and a yoga bolster or blocks. Start by sitting sideways in the chair with your bolster in front of your chair. Firmly plant your right foot on the floor (if it doesn't reach, you can put a block under your foot) and make sure that the knee is stacked over the ankle. Extend the left leg back and rest the knee and shin on top of the bolster. All the alignment cues from above still apply. Place your hands wherever it feels comfortable for you. Hold for five to ten deep breaths. Practice on both sides.
If being upright isn't in the cards for you right now, that's okay! You can enjoy the same stretch on your back. For this variation, start by lying on your back in savasana. Hug your right knee into your chest and play with the ankle of the bend of your knee. See what feels good. What's going to give you the best inner thigh stretch. Keep your left leg active. Flex the foot and press the thigh bone into the earth. If you'd like to go deeper, you can hold onto the outer edge of your right foot and come into a half happy baby pose variation. This is going to intensify the inner thigh and hip stretch. Hold for five to ten deep breaths, and make sure to practice on both sides.
HOW DID IT GO?
If you tried any of these variations, I'd love to know how it went for you! Tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe in your photos for a chance to be featured on my page! Or post a photo in our private Facebook group to show off your progress! As a part of your membership, you can get personalized feedback on your poses.