The “Yoga Fails, Fixed” series is for any person who’s ever felt lost, confused, or just plain awkward when trying yoga. The first four articles in the series offered simple fixes for Downward Facing Dog, Warrior 2, Seated Twist and Triangle Pose. In this installment, we focus on the Low Lunge, which can either be a great stretch or a great way to wreck your knee and ankle, depending on how you perform it.
Low Lunge is a posture that’s performed in many branches of yoga, either as a pose on its own or as a transition from one movement to another.
When held as a sustained stretch, the Lunge lengthens the muscles of the hips and groin and strengthens the quadriceps. Performing the move also improves balance.
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The Lunge is a fundamental pose that other poses build off of, so mastering it is important for anyone who wishes to practice yoga regularly. At first glance, the move appears simple, but practitioners should keep a few cues in mind.
Low Lunge Fail #1: Front knee too far in front of the ankle
Your front knee (the one doing the “lunging”) should to be at a 90-degree angle, and the ankle of your front foot should be directly under your knee. Why should you care? To protect your knee and ankle joints. You may think your body can sustain a lot of wear and tear, which may be true—for now. But even for people who follow the healthiest lifestyles, the joints are more susceptible to injury and deterioration than other body parts over time. Take care of your joints and they’ll take care of you.
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THE SIMPLE FIX: There are two common ways to come into a Low Lunge: stepping your front foot forward, or stepping back with your rear foot. In yoga, you will likely be asked to perform the move both ways at different points, but most of the time, students to go a Low Lunge by stepping forward out of Downward Facing Dog. To execute the movement properly, step forward and place your foot between your hands. Look at the foot. Are your toes in line with your fingers? For many people, the foot only makes it about halfway there. If this happens to you, take your right hand and hold on to the calf of your forward leg. Hop the foot a few more inches ahead using your hand to help. When the bend in your front knee reaches 90 degrees, you’ve made it to a proper Low Lunge.
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Low Lunge Fail #2: Rounded upper back
In a traditional Low Lunge, the hands are on the floor. But that’s not really necessary. In fact, reaching the floor might even be counterproductive if you round your upper back in order to do it. Yoga aims to put the spine in healthy positions. A rounded upper back and shoulders is not one of them.
THE SIMPLE FIX: When performing a Low Lunge, lift your chest and actively pull your shoulder blades closer together as if you were trying to hold a golf ball between them. Instead of aiming to put your hands flat on the floor, see if you can touch the floor with just your fingertips. If you’re still rounded, but a block on each side of your front foot and place your hands atop them. If you don’t have blocks, it’s OK to let the fingertips lift off the floor slightly. Use your core muscles to keep your chest and spine lifted.
Other posts from the “Yoga Fails, Fixed” Series:
How Not to Mess Up Downward Facing Dog
Warrior 2 Can Be Downright Dangerous Without These 2 Corrections
How to Avoid Cranking Your Back in Seated Twists
Why You’re Probably Doing Triangle Pose Wrong