Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana - TINT Yoga

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Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana Runner´s Lunge

    Quick Facts

  • Sanskrit (Original): Utthita Aśva Sanchalanāsana
  • Etymology: Extended or stretched (utthita); horse riding or lunge (aśva sanchalan); pose (āsana)
  • Fun Fact about the pose: There are many names to this pose both in English (Runner’s Lunge, High Lunge, Crescent Lunge, Equestrian Pose, Lunge Pose, …) and in Sanskrit (Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana, Alanasana Variation). My recommendation? Choose one and stick with it ;)
  • Asana Type: Forward Fold, Standing
  • Main length muscle groups: Spinal extensors; intercostals; front leg: abductors, glutes; back leg: psoas major, hamstrings, articularis genu, vastii, gastrocnemius, peroneus longus and brevis
  • Main strength muscle groups: Core muscles, serratus anterior, muscles of the feet and ankles, quadriceps; back leg: gluteus maximus
  • Vinyasa Breath: Inhale and exhale possible

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How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step

  • 1There are two very common ways to enter Runner’s lunge. The first one is by stepping back from a standing position like Tadasana. The second option is by stepping forwards from a Plank Pose, Four Foot Stand or Downward-Facing Dog. This description will follow the first option as stepping back is commonly more accessible, also for beginners students.
  • 2So start in Mountain Pose and root one foot firmly into the ground. Bring all your body weight into the grounded foot and let the other one become light and eventually lift it off the ground.
  • 3Reach the lifted leg as far back as possible and bring your toes into the ground while the heel remains lifted. Check that the back leg is reaching back far enough so that the angle in the front knee does not exceed ninety degrees.
  • 4At the same time lower your upper body down and parallel to the ground. Keep your neck long and wrinkle-free with your gaze extending slightly to the front of your hands.
  • 5Bring you hands on fingertips into the ground. The position of the hands is at least shoulder-width apart and directly to the left and right of your front ankle. So your hands are framing your front leg.
  • 6Keep your hips level with each other and engage the back leg fully.
  • 7Stay in the pose for a couple of breaths for a nice stretch or use it as a transition pose to move into Plank Pose, Standing Forward Fold, Downward-Facing Dog or any other position you fancy.
  • 8The same options for getting into the pose apply to getting out of the pose. Either step forward or step backward – or if this is more aligned with your practice press up into Handstand.

Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose

  • Raise and compact the hips: Oftentimes Runner’s Lunge is seen as an invitation to hang into the pose, especially so for students with a lot of flexibility. A beneficial habit for healthy hips and hamstrings is to keep the hips level, closed and more compact, so that both halves of the pelvis are at the same height. For most, lifting the hips a bit higher will create more strength and stability in the pose.
  • Rotate the back leg inwards: Even though the alignment of the back leg is neutral in Runner’s Lunge, this will mean that the back leg needs to rotate more inwards for most. Fully extend and engage the back leg and imagine that the inseam of your leg moves up to the ceiling.
  • Work the legs: As mentioned before Runner’s Lunge tends to be an inviting pose to slack around. You can work the details by making it a true standing pose with most of the strength and stability coming from the legs. Have only your fingertips touching the ground and take most of the weight out of your hands and arms. This way you will really get the legs working.
  • Lengthen the spine: This pose is brilliant to lengthen in two directions. Initiate the action by extending the back leg and sending the sole of the foot backwards. Extend the crown of the head and your spine forwards. Then pull your shoulders ever so slightly towards your ears to elongate the spine even more.

Adapting The Pose Through Modifications

Simplify

  • In case your hips and hamstring are quite tight you can place your hands on blocks or even a chair to bring the floor closer to you. This extra height will bring some release to the hips and hamstrings and will give you more ease in the pose.
  • Bring the back knee to the ground if extending the back leg is too strenuous for you. You can even alternate between lifting the back knee for a while and then resting it again.
  • Press your back foot into a wall for a point of reference and to feel the resistance when you engage the back leg muscles.

Level Up

  • Add a little drill to the pose by dynamically moving from Runner’s Lunge into a variation of Pyramid Pose with the back heel lifted. Alternatingly extending and bending the front leg will not only improve your hamstring flexibility but also work the elongation of your spine in a deeper forward fold of Pyramid Pose.
  • Challenge yourself (and your calves) by lifting the front heel of the ground. Try to come as high up onto your big toe as you can and give your plantar fascia a good stretch.
  • Place block under your front foot and you might notice that your legs have to work even harder.
  • Extend the arms parallel to the floor, either sideways like an airplane or to the front, and create some cozy warmth and a nice burn in your core.
  • Bring the underarms down into the ground and come into Lizard Pose for a deeper stretch in the hips.

Benefits of Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana

  • Practicing Runner’s Lunge strengthens the spine and core of the body as well as the legs and feet while at the same time increasing the flexibility in these body parts.
  • The pose deeply stretches and opens up the hips, groin area and the hamstrings and can thus help to relieve lower back pain and sciatica.
  • The deep stretch in the back foot can help to open up the plantar fascia of the foot and provides a good stretch for the whole foot, especially for the toes.
  • Runner’s Lunge increases stamina and strength in the arms, back, hips and legs and is a great preparation for all Warrior poses.

TAKE YOUR YOGA CLASS PREPARATION TO THE NEXT LEVEL!

As most people are familiar with Runner’s Lunge also from other types of sports or movements, it is a great pose layer all the alignment details on top of what they know about the pose already. As it is a main pose in Sun Salutations it is essential for me to practice the pose in a way that can support the body sustainably.

Stephi

Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher

FAQ: Common questions about this pose

This is a very common problem for practitioners in Runner’s Lunge, especially if you are prone to hanging into your hips. When the hips are not well supported (through the strength of the back leg), all the weight of the hips falls down onto the groin of the extended leg. This is pushing the groin forward causing it to over-extend and hurt. You can even see your groin popping forward (like a little puffy, bulky ball) when it is over-extended. To avoid this slightly bend the back knee and tilt your pelvis posteriorly (i.e. backwards) which will move your groin back into the body. Maintain the stability and position of the pelvis while you extend the back leg again.

For people suffering from knee pain or injury or neck injury Runner’s Lunge should be practiced very cautious and with appropriate modifications. This could be looking down to the ground instead of forward or creating a bigger angle in the front knee by elevating the hands.

The difference between those two poses is not that big. The main difference is that in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) the back knee is resting on the ground while it is extended in Runner’s Lunge.

The difference between those two poses is not that big. The main difference is that in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) the back knee is resting on the ground while it is extended in Runner’s Lunge. In Low Lunge the torso is usually lifted up like in Warrior I while it is parallel to the floor with hands on the ground in Runner’s Lunge. However, there is a variation of Anjaneyasana where the upper body is also parallel to the ground.

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