Anyone can do yoga — and you don’t need to go to class regularly to start seeing the benefits. All it takes is ten minutes of your time, in the comfort of your own home, or you can slot it into your regular exercise regime. This week: How a low lunge is beneficial to cyclists and runners… and helps you breathe easy
For all you athletic types out there, a low lunge (anjaneyasana) is the pose for you. Your hip flexors and thighs get especially tight when you’re pounding the streets or pedalling furiously, so low lunges help to stretch you out where it matters most.
I’m a runner as well as a yogi, and I know that a few rounds of lunges after a workout really ease up my hips and legs. Crosstraining should not be underestimated — yoga poses and breath work can really help you keep injury free, focused and strong.
Low lunges have another great use, too. They stretch out the psoas, an illusive postural muscle that connects the spine to the legs and ties into the back of the diaphragm. A tight psoas can inhibit the diaphragm’s movement and even lead to restricted breathing, so use low lunges to open the lungs and free your breath as well as strengthen and stretch legs, hips, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back and knees.
HOW TO DO IT
Have a folded blanket to hand. Come on to all fours, shoulders over wrists, hips over knees.
Bring your attention to the breath. Notice how the inhale and exhale feel as they travel in and out of your body.
Keeping this awareness on the breath, move into downward-facing dog by pressing into your hands and extending the legs to raise the hips. Take a few breaths here and then bend your right knee and swing your foot between the hands, toes pointing forward. Drop the left knee to the ground and uncurl the toes. If this doesn’t feel good for the kneecap, place a folded blanket beneath it.
Next, lift your torso upright and place your hands on hips. Start to lunge forward, bending the front knee as much as possible. Lift the chest but make sure you tuck the tailbone under to protect the lower back.
If you are happy here, extend the hands up into the air, palms facing each other. Keep the shoulders relaxed, soften the jaw and come back to the breath. Try lifting the gaze without jamming into the back of the neck. Keep thinking about the delicate balance between deepening the lunge and lifting the chest.
Stay here for up to ten breaths. To come out, bring your hands to the ground and step back into downward-facing dog once more. Repeat on the other side.
CAN ANYONE HAVE A GO?
Pretty much. Use a folded blanket under the knee on the ground if there is sensitivity here, or try tucking your toes under. And if you have any back or blood pressure issues, keep your hands on your hips.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail Good Health supplement, June 16, 2015