Understanding Vinyasa Flow Yoga... Part 8: Anjaneyasana
Welcome back to this blog post series: Understanding Vinyasa Flow yoga.
Whether you’re a beginner looking for yoga tips, or a more experienced practitioner: these articles are aimed at helping you refine your practice - so you can find a sustainable practice that suits your needs.
In this article we delve into lunges, a popular pose in its own right but, also used often for transitions between poses too.
Lunges can be deceptive. On the outside they look relatively simple, but underneath there can be a lot going on.
Awareness of what you should pay attention to, an understanding of how to vary the pose to suit your needs, and taking the time to learn some interesting variations can be transformational for any student, whether newer or with more experience.
High lunge (also often referred to as cresent lunge)
Finding your way into it
Often this pose is entered by stepping through from downward dog. If you’d like some more guidance on that check out my video below.
Once you have one foot forward between your hands, check your feet are roughly hips width apart.
If the feet are too close to the same line you’ll feel a bit like you’re on a tight rope, so adjust and give yourself extra space so that you have more stability and therefore more balance when coming upright.
Resist the feet down into the mat, and also think of lengthening your back heel behind you. Both these actions will have the effect of adding stability as you lift up.
If you find you’re struggling a little with balance as you bring your torso up above your hips - keep your arms by your side, or play with floating them out to the side and then overhead at the same time as you lift your torso.
For more of a challenge, try bringing your arms forward in front, as you simultaneously lift your torso (it’s particularly helpful with this one to cultivate some support from your core, by toning your abdomen a little).
Encouraging your hips to lower down can give the perception of this making the pose deeper, however this isn’t really the case.
In my experience it’s much more beneficial to keep some buoyancy in the legs and pelvis.
So rather than allowing your hips to drop low, keep resisting the floor away, really feeling that sense of grounding through your feet. If you hold the pose for a while with this activity in your legs, you’ll really feel the challenge.
Try lengthening your back leg to the point that it feels manageable to do so, keeping some bend in it is absolutely fine, it’s certainly not a prerequisite to have this leg totally straight.
Lift your front hip points so that your pelvis is not tipping forward too much. Consider the connection between your pelvis and your spine, when you move one, it affects the other!
So by ensuring your pelvis is not pitched forward you’re naturally able to have a more upright torso as well, which will help keep more space in your lower back, as essentially your body parts are moving in an integrated way, rather than a disjointed one.
Feel the lovely sensation of active stretch across your hip flexors (group of muscles at the top, front of your thigh) that comes with this approach.
One of my favourite poses simply because it’s so versatile!
If you’re on a hard floor, simply the mat may not be enough to sufficiently support your back knee, so add more padding - in the form of a folded blanket or cushion, or by doubling over your yoga mat.
Options to suit you
There are a couple of different ways to approach this pose, and it’s good to incorporate both types into your practice anyway, as both are really useful.
Option 1: active legs and hips
This one is deliciously strengthening. My legs and hip flexors certainly feel it after 30 seconds of holding this one! And of course because the body is complex, we can’t simply isolate the ‘strengthening’ aspect in a pose like this, so you’ll still be feeling the stretch element too.
Imagine you are trying to slide your front foot and back knee towards one another without them actually moving. It’s like you’re trying to scissor your legs together.
Keep a lift in your front hip points, so that your lower back stays long, and a slight tone of your belly to support stability around your mid section. Reach your arms over your head if you wish, otherwise hands on hips, or hands on your front knee work well too.
Option 2: soft and passive
If you’re already on the very flexible side, I’d suggest this option is less relevant for you, as it won’t really bring much benefit, but if you’re someone on the stiffer side of the spectrum this will feel pretty good.
Choose support by either placing your hands:
on blocks either side of your front foot
on your front knee, keeping your torso more upright
on the floor (if it’s comfortably available) either side of your front foot
Using the support of your hands, you can control how far you soften your hips forward and downwards. Stay for a minute or two to enjoy the release.
Play with some variations
Variations are the key to an interesting practice. One that doesn’t get too monotonous for your body or your mind. And handily lunges come with loads of variation choices!
Enjoy playing around with this pose!
Ps. Don't forget to check out my video tutorial about stepping through to lunge from downward dog.
If you find this movement challenging, you'll discover some tips on technique, as well as supporting practices to build your body's familiarity with the movement, so you'll progress towards it much more quickly.