Crescent Lunge: How I Got Hooked on Yoga

Crescent Lunge, also known as Anjaneyasana, and I have a love/hate relationship. When I came to yoga, I was looking for therapy for my overworked psoas and hip flexors. At the beginning of my first yoga class, I found the postures to be okay. Yes, I could feel like they were working muscles and yes, it felt good to my body. Then came Crescent Lunge, which greeted me like a slap to the face.

Wake up! it commanded. So I did.

If you have issues with tight or weak psoas or hip flexors, this is a great posture for you to practice.

There are two popular modifications for Crescent Lunge, which are also labeled Anjaneyasana. I’ll describe the most basic, which is Low Lunge, first. Next is Runner’s Stretch, and finally, Crescent Lunge.

In all three poses, if you start to have low back pain, bow forward slightly and lift up out of the pose a little. Bring your hands to your hips and feel your pelvis move into a neutral position. Re-engage the core muscles to hold everything steady, lower your hips to an appropriate level, and resume your practice.

Low Lunge

Anjaneyasana, low lunge

  1. You can begin on your hands and knees or from a squat position. Personally, I find starting from a squat to be less awkward, so that’s how I’m going to cue this. Begin with your knees bent, finger pads touching the floor on either side of your feet.
  2. As you move, inhale and exhale where you need it, using yogic breathing.
  3. Reach your right leg back quite a distance so that you have a large space between your right and left feet.
  4. Make sure that your legs are running parallel to each other like they are on train tracks, not the same rail of a train track.
  5. Bend your right knee and lower it to the ground. If you are on a hard floor or if you have knee pain, slide a blanket under your knee to give you some cushion. Make sure the right leg is reaching behind you and slide forward of the right knee cap.
  6. Draw your belly button to your spine and lift your upper body.
  7. I like to put my hands on my hips to make sure that my pelvis is in neutral. Frequently, because of my tightness, it isn’t. To correct the tilt of my pelvis, I lift up out of the pose a little bit, get my pelvis in neutral, re-engage my core muscles, then lower back into the low lunge.
  8. Keeping the core engagement, bring bent arms up so that your elbows are in line with your shoulders and your palms face forward. This is called cactus.
  9. Soften the space in your upper back that is right behind your heart. As that portion of upper thoracic spine moves, so will your cervical spine (neck). The head and neck should not drop behind the body but should instead be a natural extension from the thoracic.
  10. Reach your arms straight toward the ceiling with palms facing each other. Your biceps (upper arms) should be beside your ears. Your hands should be close together, as if you are holding a basketball above your head.
  11. Hold this side for 5-10 breaths.
  12. On your last exhale, bring your arms down on either side of the left foot. You can curl your right toes under and lift to a lunge, then step your right foot up to meet your left. If you prefer to stay on your knees, I would recommend you heel/toe your left foot off the mat, bring your left knee beside the right knee, then bring the right foot to the front of the mat between your hands.
  13. Reach the left leg back and do the other side.

Runner’s Stretch

Anjaneyasana, Runner's stretch

  1. Begin with your knees bent, finger pads touching the floor on either side of your feet.
  2. As you move, inhale and exhale where you need it, using yogic breathing.
  3. Reach your right leg back quite a distance so that you have a large space between your right and left feet.
  4. Make sure that your legs are running parallel to each other like they are on train tracks, not the same rail of a train track.
  5. Reach through your right heel, like it is reaching for the wall behind you. Take a moment to make sure that your right heel is in a straight line and not falling in or out.
  6. Check to make sure that your left knee is in line with the center of your foot. It’s okay for the knee to come forward toward the second and third toes, but it should not go past the toes. Also, the knee should not drop toward the inside or the outside.
  7. Feel your adductors (inner thighs) scissors and draw toward and past each other.
  8. Draw the low belly to the spine so that you can feel yourself lift off of your left thigh without lifting your fingers off the floor.
  9. As you reach through your right heel, feel yourself reach through your leg, spine, and out through the top of your head. Get yourself aligned and you can feel energy run through you like a current.
  10. Hold this side for 5-10 breaths.
  11. Keeping everything aligned and active, step the right foot next to the left.
  12. Reach the left leg back and do the second side.

Crescent Lunge

Anjaneyasana, Crescent lunge

  1. Perform steps 1-9 of Runner’s Stretch.
  2. Draw your belly button to your spine and lift your upper body.
  3. I like to put my hands on my hips to make sure that my pelvis is in neutral. Frequently, because of my tightness, it isn’t. To correct the tilt of my pelvis, I lift up out of the pose a little bit, get my pelvis in neutral, re-engage my core muscles, then lower back into the lunge.
  4. Keeping the core engagement, bring bent arms up so that your elbows are in line with your shoulders and your palms face forward. This is called cactus.
  5. Soften the space in your upper back that is right behind your heart. As that portion of upper thoracic spine moves, so will your cervical spine (neck). The head and neck should not drop behind the body but should instead be a natural extension from the thoracic.
  6. Reach your arms straight toward the ceiling with palms facing each other. Your biceps (upper arms) should be beside your ears. Your hands should be close together, as if you are holding a basketball above your head.
  7. Hold this side for 5-10 breaths.
  8. On your last exhale, bring your arms down on either side of the left foot. Keeping your core engaged, step the right foot up to meet the left.
  9. Reach the left leg back and do the other side.

Which version of Anjaneyasana is your favorite? What muscles do you feel working? Let us know in the comments below.

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Here is a video for visual learners.

Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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