Low lunge pose has long been recommended for tight hip flexors. These are the muscles on the top of the thigh that tighten up from prolonged sitting. But overstretching in this pose can lead to hip and low back instability and pain. It is important to know the body’s limits.
We often see low lunge pose demonstrate like this, with spinal and hip extension. And it does look beautiful.
Practicing the pose this way is not without benefits. Energetically, there is an embodiment of the breath, and upward expansion. There is an opening up of the front side of the body, including the chest muscles and heart center.
Who should modify?
Modifying the position, however, will enhance its therapeutic effects for many people:
- Those troubled by “pinches” in the front of the hip
- Those with general hypermobility of the hips (those needing frequent chiropractic adjustments in the low back/hips/pelvis)
- New moms, pregnant and nursing women (due to ligamentous laxity from hormones)
- Runners, dancers and long-time yogis
- Desk workers who find themselves rounding/slouching their lower backs while sitting and then swaying hips under while standing (swayback)
Why should I modify?
If you find that you are in one of the above groups, you likely do a lot of hip extension with your daily activities already. (Hip extension is when the knee is behind the hip, as in the above picture.) We extend the hips when we run, practice the splits, or stand with the hips tucked under (common when holding a child).
When the hip extends, the head of the femur glides anteriorly (toward the front of the body). Excessive anterior glide of the hip can lead to instability at the hip, labral irritation and pinching.
If you are in one of the groups above, it is likely that poses that promote the opposite motion—posterior glide of the femoral head—are what your body needs.
We can get an effective stretch in the hip flexor (as well as build some core and hip stability) by practicing low lunge this way.
The knee is right underneath the hip, removing the hip extension. The pelvis is neutral. Activating the back gluteus maximus and pressing the shin down into the floor adds stability to the pose. If you keep the pelvis neutral and add an arm reach on that side, you increase the work of the deep abdominals to stabilize the pelvis. We still get a nice stretch to the hip flexors, without overstretching the hip joint itself.