Avoid this Cue in Your High Crescent Lunge
Typically, in the yoga poses and transitions we practice daily (or often) we are given good direction from our teachers on how to keep the movements safe. However, there is one common movement that I often hear mis-cued, which can lead to bad alignment, and ultimately injury. You’ve likely heard it before.
I’m talking about the cue from Downward Facing Dog to High Crescent Lunge. The cue from down dog sounds like: “Lift your right foot off the mat and step your foot in-between your hands, then lift the chest into crescent lunge.”
There are many movements that we practice in yoga over and over again. Movements like the Vinyasa Flow (Plank to Chaturanga to Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog), or a Sun Salutation B Sequence (Chair Pose to Vinyasa to Warrior I to Vinyasa, etc.). Repetition in yoga is important in helping us build strength and advance in our practice. However, because we do these movements so frequently, it’s important that we are doing the movements correctly so as to avoid a repetitive stress injury in our bodies (an injury caused by doing the same motion over and over again).
Well, it turns out the above cue may be a culprit for causing knee pain and misalignment in High Crescent Lunge, namely because it places your front foot towards the center of your yoga mat, rather than in-line with your corresponding hip.
Let’s paint a picture. Imagine you are in a closed-hip position (as you are in your high lunge). You’ll notice that your feet are actually on two parallel lanes, hips-width distance apart, running down the length of your mat. When you follow the cue in question and step your foot into the center of the mat, your front foot lands inside those two lines. This would be akin to having your feet on a balance beam, when what you really want to imagine is your feet on two railroad tracks.
Though not a cause of immediate concern or injury, overtime this placement of the feet in your lunge, and the corresponding effect in the knee joint, might cause problems. Having your feet hips-width distance apart aids in balance in the posture, which will help to avoid falling out of the pose in a compromising manner. More than that, a hips-width distance between your feet ensures that your ankles, knees, and hips stay in one vertical line as you move through the pose. This ensures the knee joint and femur bone are not tweaked or tilted in an angle that might lead to injury overtime.
Luckily, there is an easy and quick fix. For example, let’s say you’re working with the right leg, you might try this cue instead:
“Step your right foot up to your right thumb and then lift into your lunge.”
This cue ensures that your feet stay on parallel tracks, making your hips happy, avoiding tweaks in your knees, and even improving balance.
Another way to get your feet in the right place in High Crescent Lunge is by entering into the pose from Standing Forward Fold. From your forward fold, your feet are already at hip’s width distance apart. Step one foot straight back. Root down through both feet and then lift the chest, bending the front knee at a 90 degree angle. Viola! Great alignment and a safe lunge.
Here are a few alignment cues for High Crescent Lunge.
Keep your front foot toes facing the top of the yoga mat
Why? This prevents your knee from buckling in or out and potentially causing harmful torque
Ensure your front knee is stacked over the front ankle
Why? This also prevents your knee from buckling in or out and potentially causing harmful torque and ensures you are getting low enough into your lunge to stretch effectively into your opposite psoas.
Keep your hips square to the front of the mat and level with each other
Why? This helps to activate deep postural or “core” muscles
Strongly engage your back leg by pressing into the toe mound of your back foot
Why? To activate your hamstring muscles and strengthen your shape.
Stack your shoulders over your hips
Why? To create a better stack of your bones and create ease in the posture.
Engage your core by pulling your navel in towards the spine
Why? To support your upper-body and spine, which avoids collapsing into the hip and leg joints.
High Crescent Lunge is one of those poses we visit all the time. It is a pose of power, strength and familiarity. For the sake of our bodies and a long yoga practice ahead, let’s ensure we’re doing it safely!
What other poses do you want alignment tips for? Let us know in the comments!