I know I’ve already spent some time with the yin yoga dragon pose — which is basically the same thing as the low lunge I’m about to describe here — but I can’t think of anything I like better for initial hip flexor stretching than a nice bent knee low lunge.
Sage Roundtree’s video below goes through most of the same concepts, but some key alignment points that help me:
- I like to start in an “upright lunge,” with the back knee directly under the back hip and the front knee directly over the front ankle. When I do this, both my knees are bent at about 90-degree angles.
- The cushion under the back knee thing? Essential for me if I’m in this pose off my mat — for example, if I’m doing some pre- or post-run stretching of my hips.
- Before I move forward, I make sure my hips are both pointing forward. For me, this generally means placing both hands on the back of my pelvis in order to guide my front hip back and my back hip forward. So if, for instance, my left leg is in front, it sort of feels like I’m rotating my hips a few (or more) degrees counter-clockwise. If my right leg is in front, the motion is reversed.
- Also before moving forward, I check the tilt of my pelvis. Because of my personal anatomy, this almost always means I’m taking some of the arch out of my low back as I lengthen my tailbone down toward the ground. I don’t like to think of it as tucking under — because then my pelvic floor muscles clench, which is not good for me — but the idea of lengthening down helps make sure that my psoas is lined up properly to benefit from the stretch.
- With my hips forward and my tailbone lengthening down, my comfortable range of motion in this pose is much less than if I, say, let my pelvis stay in its natural anterior tilt and let my low back absorb much of the motion. But that’s okay, because feeling it sooner in my hip flexor just means I don’t have to move forward as far.
[Video includes Sage Rountree instructing for Competitor.com. Video embedded here from YouTube.]
Additionally, I use this basic pose in a couple of different ways for the fronts of my hips:
- If I’m taking it in the morning or before a run, I’ll usually incorporate it into a vinyasa with ardha hanumanasana as a complementary pose. I don’t go very deep into either pose, and I don’t stay long in either one — maybe only a half or a full breath cycle per round, though I do several repetitions.
- Either after running or during a later-in-the-day practice (though these often overlap for me) is when I’m more likely to take this as a deeper and more static posture. By “more static,” I mean anywhere from 3 breaths to 7 or 8 minutes, depending on how much time I have, how much release I’m getting, and what else feels tight and craptacular as well.
- From time to time — usually in line with the deeper, more static phase — I take any number of variations of this lunge as well. But I think those may work best as their own post.