Yoga Diary – Runner’s Lunge “the asana treasure waiting to be discovered”

16 Sep

In an article published in Yoga International, Luke Ketterhagen described banarasana (one of the names given to the Lunge pose) as “an asana treasure waiting to be discovered”.

This reminded me of a workshop I attended with Ana Forrest. She also recommended practising Lunge pose. In her book “Fierce Medicine”, she  wrote: “When you are moving into Lunge, you’re dealing with big muscles –quadriceps- so it takes a while for the pose to take its effect. This pose is so simple, and it works deeply. Anatomically, it’s straightforward, but energetically and physiologically, it’s a mover and a shaker.” (page 30)

In Yoga Therapy, we learn that the benefits of the pose are varied: it tones the abdominal muscles and gives a good stretch to the back and hip flexors. It strengthens the hips, legs, ankles and feet and induces balance in the nervous system!

So here are the instructions to come into Lunge:

  1. Starting from the table position, on all four, step your left foot forward between your hands.  Left knee is directly over the ankle and the shin perpendicular to the ground. Extend the right leg behind and place the knee and the top of the foot on the floor. Make sure the neck is in line with the spine, head looking down. Fingertips are on the floor or if you feel more comfortable, place blocks under your hands.
  2. Then lengthen the left thigh forward and the right thigh back, lowering the hips towards the mat. Stay in the pose for 30 to 60 seconds and then come back to table position and change side.
  3. Repeat a few times on each side.

To be honest, it wasn’t one of my favourite postures when I started yoga. My thighs were burning and although I am fairly flexible, it just didn’t feel right. But little by little, I started to notice how to adjust to make it nicer.
First it is crucial to place the knee of the extended leg comfortably on the mat. It sometimes helps to place a blanket underneath or to fold the mat. What I like doing is extend the straight leg back so I can place the top of the kneecap on the floor rather than the front. But only slightly as you need to keep the hips square to the front of the mat!
I also like to lift the toes and press the ball of the foot (of the bent leg) to make sure my knee doesn’t rotate inwards and stays in line with the ankle and the hip.
Then the main thing is to LET GO! The more relaxed you are, the more your hips will release. Gently! As Ana Forrest said, you need time in the Lunge to really experience it.  For some people, doing lunges releases a lot of emotions. If you feel “vulnerable”, just return to your breath to relax. Let go at all levels, and observe what happens without judging yourself.

I now really enjoy the lunges and I increasingly practise the Yin version: the Dragon Pose. Holding the pose for 2 minutes stimulates the stomach and spleen meridians (on the extended leg) and the kidney and liver meridians on the bent leg.

So are you ready to go into Lunge?

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