Yoga Day Thirty-Six: Modified low lunge (or stalking cat)

I have a love/hate relationship with the modified low lunge with my forearms on the floor.  My instructors teach it one of two ways, both of which are beneficial and both of which are exhausting.  But I can’t seem to find a name that distinguishes this variation from other high/low lunges, so I’m going to call it stalking cat.  (Which isn’t remotely hubristic or arrogant.  It’s just a nickname.  Unless it catches on.  Then I’m a GENIUS).

In type 1, the back leg stays up off the ground, which makes it kind of a mutt lunge because it’s the same pose as a high lunge, but with different arm action.  Here, the benefit is that it is MUCH easier to keep good leg form, not wing out the knee, and keep everything hugged close to the midline.  Of course, it’s harder to get down onto my elbows or forearms, particularly if the pose comes at the beginning of the class and is rather exhausting to hold for a minute or so because of that straight back leg.  But I can walk my arms out to the side to get down to my forearms, hug everything in and chant in my head (oh nothing fancy in Sanskrit, more like, IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan).  So it’s exhausting, and more about strength and slow, slow flexibility, but it’s easier to hold strong alignment.

In type 2, the back leg comes to the ground, the hip rotated forward (or back?) so that the weight is on the top of the knee or the quad muscle.  Here, it’s easier to get down to my elbows, but it requires A LOT more effort to keep my legs hugged into the midline.  The great benefit is that it offers a really intense hip/hamstring stretch and opens everything up for hip openers like splits or crow.  The downside is that I cannot physically, even with loads of props, melt my upper body and maintain the integrity of leg alignment.

low lunge with elbows on floor

This will always be a strength/stretch, even if I hold it for 5 minutes, so I’m not a fan of it as a yin pose because I don’t know how to do it without making my hips and hamstrings open, although, again, walking the arms out to the side helps.

low lunge with elbows on floor

On the other hand, if I can keep my arms and shoulders strong, this pose is a wonderful way to release a torrent of bad emotions and open up my hips until I am almost sliding into Hanumanasana.

Give me good form and I might be tired, but I will love it.

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