The pose Aṅjaneyāsana or Crescent Lunge is named after Aṅjanā, Hanumān’s mother. Hanumān, the monkey king, has a legendary capability for love and devotion, which is illustrated in the epic of Rāmāyaṇa. It’s easy to see that this pose is related to Hanumānāsana, especially because of the open heart.
It’s always lovely to meet the children of my yoga students either at Family Yoga or just out and about in the community. It’s easy to see reflections of their parents (and grandparents) in their smiles, mannerism, and how they interact with others. The phrase is true, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
The pose dedicated to Aṅjanā cultivates open hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and balance. In this assymetrical pose, it’s the drawing back towards center or being rooted at home that provides the stability to experiment with variations. As you progress through the variations of Aṅjaneyāsana stay grounded with a gentle hug of the inner thighs and a lifting through the pelvic floor. (Isn’t that just perfect for a pose dedicated to a mother?)
Try these variations:
Option 1 – Hamstring Mobility. This first stage might require a little pep talk, especially if your hamstring is quick to seize up when asked to engage. Find a kneeling lunge with the foot and knee about hip distance apart. The front need should be stacked over the front ankle, with the ankle and knee pointing forward. If the back knee is sensitive, place a thin blanket under it or double up the mat to provide cushion. With hands on blocks or on the thigh, slowly, bend and straighten the back leg, drawing the heel towards the glute. Try to keep the movement of the leg in line with the hip, or moving directly up and down.
Option 2 – Quad Stretch. From the kneeling lunge, bend the back knee. Reach back with the same hand and grab the foot. Draw the foot towards the glute as much as the knee and quad allow. Keep the ankle long and active, avoiding a curving or collapsing through the ankle. If the torso twisted open as you grabbed the foot, square the heart towards the front knee, keeping the collarbone and shoulder heads broad. This creates an added bonus, a shoulder stretch. Breathe for 5-10 counts. When you release the foot, try to control the decent of the foot and come out of the pose slowly.
Option 3 – Aṅjaneyāsana Variation. From the kneeling lunge, bend the back knee. Reach back with the same hand and grab the foot. The hand can be positioned to grab the blade edge (as shown) or arch edge of the foot. The different positions allow different angles for opening the shoulder, so try both. Reach the tailbone toward the ground and lift the heart. Kick the foot into the hand and resist the kick with gentle resistance of the hand. Sink a little further into the lunge. The free hand can rest on the thigh or heart. You can also reach it overhead.
Option 4 – With a Strap. For a deeper back bend, begin to reach overhead for the foot. This will be inaccessible for most yogis (including me), so use the strap to bridge the gap. In this case of using the strap, the idea is to maintain the integrity and intention of the posture, so that over time we may eliminate the need for the prop. The positioning of the body will look the same with or without the prop. Place a small loop around the back foot, making sure the buckle or hardware is not pressing into the foot. Holding the strap, reach the arms overhead and begin to walk the hands towards the foot. The elbows will be pointing up with the hands as far reaching as is possible. Hug the elbows gently towards the midline of the body, soften the shoulders down the back, hollow out the armpits. When you are in position, kick the foot away maintaining gentle pressure with the strap. Keep the back ankle long the foot active.
As you practice this posture, think about those people in your lives who have shown you care and devotion. How can you take what you’ve learned from them and pass it on to someone else?
Be sure to start with a little love of yourself, moving gently and mindfully as you practice. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.