If you were to search “anjaneyasana” as a tag on Instagram, I guarantee you’ll see images of people in the most exaggerated version of this lunging shape. (Honestly, if you search anything on Instagram, the most exaggerated version of whatever you searched will probably be the most viewed and therefore first to populate in your search.)
But let’s back it up a bit. What’s the purpose of a low lunge variation like this? You are primarily opening up the front of the hip of the leg you have in the back of your lunge (for me, it’s the right leg in the image above). It’s a great shape to make if you have tight hip flexors, which is likely true if you sit at your desk, in your car, or really anywhere for most of your day.
But I’d like you to test something the next time you drop into a low lunge. First, try lunging as low as you can, stretching you back leg long behind you, and then try shortening the stance some and shift only as far forward as you can while still keeping your ribs over your hips.
What differences do you feel? In general, you’ll find the second variation keeps the whole shape in a little more integrity for the hips and allows you to access your psoas major muscle to a great degree of specificity than you would if you were to lunge way far forward.
With a shortened stance, you’ll end up with more muscular support versus joint support. Try squeezing your back glute and pressing down into your front foot. You can test balance and muscle recruitment to hover your back knee (tuck your back toes first).
You can incorporate proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF stretching). You might even find less of a recoil from your back leg hip flexors and dominant quad muscle, your rectus femoris when coming out of the stretch (i.e. avoiding going so far that the muscles contract even more to protect your body from injury).
The main point is this: while I don’t think there are any wrong exercises (or potentially even wrong ways to move) I do think it’s valuable to switch up our “usual” way of doing things. This keeps the body able to move in all different planes and increases overall proprioception.
Try shortening your stance, backing out of the low lunge, and even trying some other muscle activating exercises like pressing down into your front foot, squeezing your back glute, or tucking your back toes and hovering your back knee. Always remember to breathe using the fullest capacity of your diaphragm (no shallow breaths!) & check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
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