If you spend any time in the gym, or doing strength exercises for your legs, you have no doubt done a few lunges. The many variations of lunges are indeed great muscle-toning moves, but they are also an excellent way for runners to get a deep stretch in their hip flexors, quads, and front core. And just like in the gym, when practicing lunges in yoga, there are many variations, leading to an open, curving crescent lunge called Anjaneyasana.
Move into the lunges carefully, after you have warmed the body with deep slow breaths and several forward folds, until you feel the back of your legs relax and your lower back release initial tightness.
Then, from a standing Mountain pose, reach your arms up over your head, lengthen the spine and feel the front of your body stretch open. Keeping a strong lower back, fold forward, bending your knees if necessary to bring the hands flat onto the floor on either side of your feet.
Keep your attention on your left knee so that it stays directly above the left ankle. Then, with your hands flat on the floor, step your right foot back, dropping the hips and bringing the right knee to the floor. Keep pushing the left foot firmly into the floor, finding strength and balance in the left thigh. Feel a comfortable lengthening along your right leg, maybe inching your right toes back further, if able, to bring the hips lower to the floor.
Bring your attention to the front of your right hip — the hip flexor. Adjust one of more of the following until you feel a gentle stretch here, and in the front of the right thigh.
- Slide the right foot up or back
- Lift or drop the hips a little
- Bring the chest up, perpendicular to the earth, with hands on the left knee
- Keeping a strong lift in the left leg, lengthen the spine and draw the arms up over the head, lifting the heart toward the sky. Do not bend back at the lower vertebrae or at the neck, but keep the lower back long and strong as you curve slightly back by opening the chest, keeping the head aligned with the rest of your spine.
- Hold the pose that feels best for 2-5 breaths
Come out of the lunge by bringing the hands to the floor, relaxing the legs, curling the right toes under and then stepping your right leg toward your hands. If you need to help it along, or take a few little hops with the foot, then go ahead. Once your feet are together again, you may return to Mountain, sweeping the arms out to the sides as you rise, and then repeat the movement on the other side, stepping the left foot back.
Through all variations, keep the breath slow and deep. Allow the stretch to creep into your muscles gently so that the tightness releases and dissipates. As you hold the pose, imagine your muscles becoming long and strong, your body becoming poised and graceful, your mind becoming focused and confident.
Many people have short, tight hip flexors from desk jobs and long commutes. Runners, especially, tend to be tight here, so stretching gently and consistently will help balance the workload between hamstrings and quads and will improve overall form. Above all, pay attention to the differences of the two sides of your body and the way it responds each day. Move in rhythm with what your body needs. Always.
To bring personalized yoga instruction to your running club, work group or straight into your home, email me. We’ll set up a plan that fits YOUR needs — every time!