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6 Key Preparatory Yoga Poses to Help You Transition from Down Dog to Low Lunge

Bianca Williams
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If you have trouble transitioning from Downward Facing Dog to Low Lunge, you are not alone. Some students transition through these poses effortlessly and with the finesse of a dancer . . . which can leave some of us feeling awkward and defeated. But no need for discouragement – this is why we practice yoga.
 
The physical movement from Down Dog to Low Lunge requires flexion (bending) of the knees and hips as well as core strength. To practice this transition smoothly, we need to have both flexibility and strength in the hamstrings, quadriceps, psoas, and iliacus to keep the knee close to the body as we bring the leg through to Low Lunge.
 
A strong core is essential to move through this transition and to make it as fluid as possible. We activate our abdominal strength and psoas to keep the knee close to the body and eventually bring it to the top of the mat. Without a strong core foundation, this transition can be very difficult.
 
Suggested read: Abdominal Anatomy + Yoga Poses to Strengthen Full Core.
 
When we are able to gain the strength and flexibility needed in the hamstrings, psoas, quadriceps and abdominals, our transition will become more fluid and accessible.
 

Let’s explore key preparatory yoga poses to help you achieve the transition from Down Dog to Low Lunge:

 

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

This is an obvious and important place to begin! Practicing Low Lunge itself will help open the body and make this transition easier. Low Lunge opens our hip flexors, which gives you the flexibility needed to bring your knee to the top of your mat. Low Lunge is a great pose to hold for many breaths and allow the body to slowly and gently open.
 
_Low-Lunge-ashton
 
How to practice:

  • Begin in a forward fold at the top of your mat with your knees slightly bent. Use your hands for support as you extend your right leg back and place your right knee on the floor
  • Frame your right foot with your hands and feel free to place your hands on blocks if your hips are tight
  • Inhale deeply and as you exhale, allow your hips to become heavy and sink lower. You should begin to feel a deep stretch in the front upper thigh. Continue to breathe deeply
  • If the hips begin to open and you would like to deepen the stretch, remove your hands from the blocks and bring them to the floor. When the hips continue to open over time, try lowering onto your forearms to add more intensity to the stretch
  • Be sure to practice both sides

 
 

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II strengthens the quads, calves and ankles, which is necessary strength to practice Low Lunge. Warrior II is also a great way to build stamina and full body strength. When we spend time in this pose, we also open our hips and shoulders, which will aid in our Down Dog to Low Lunge transition.
 
warrior-2-pose
 
How to practice:

  • From Low Lunge, pivot your back heel onto the mat at a 45 degree angle
  • Make sure the heel of the front foot is in line with the arch of the back foot
  • To keep your front knee safe, keep it stacked on top of the front ankle so your thigh is parallel to the floor
  • Open the arms to shoulder height and keep your gaze over your front fingertips. Allow your shoulders to remain stacked on top of your hips
  • Build a strong foundation by pressing the blade of the back foot firmly into the mat
  • Remain in this pose and connect to your breath. Be sure to keep the shoulders and jaw relaxed
  • Repeat on side two

 
 

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Chair Pose may not be a favorite, but I promise this pose does get easier. Chair Pose builds strength in the ankles, thighs, calves, and back while stretching the shoulders and chest. This pose invites the yogi to keep the body soft to gain flexibility as well as stability to build strength. Chair Pose can be held for many breaths to build full body strength and endurance.
 
chair-pose
 
How to practice:

  • Begin at the top of your mat, big toes together and heels slightly apart. When you exhale, bend your knees and drop your hips closer to the floor, like you’re sitting in a chair
  • Keep the knees and inner thighs squeezing together and make sure your weight is in your heels. If you cannot see your toes, shift your weight back
  • Either keep the arms parallel to the floor at shoulder height or raise them overhead with the palms facing inward
  • Core remains engaged and your tailbone drops down toward the floor
  • Keep your chest open and the spine long, and invite yourself to “sit back” into your chair to find a deeper expression
  • Hold for several breaths

 
 

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose is a great pose to allow a slow, gentle opening in the hamstrings. Our hamstrings allow flexion in our knees, continuing to strengthen and open these muscles which will not only help our transitions but also help prevent low back pain.
 
beyogi-image-result-for-supta-padangusthasana
 
How to practice:

  • With a yoga strap, towel or belt in hand, recline onto your back. Keep the left leg extended and relaxed on your mat and bend the right knee in toward the chest
  • Place your strap, towel or belt around the ball of your right foot. Make sure you have enough “tail” of the strap hanging down on both sides to hold with your hands
  • Slowly begin to extend the right leg up by pressing through the heel and allow the leg to begin to straighten
  • Relax the body and keep your shoulders on the mat, also pressing the low back into the mat to prevent arching
  • With each inhalation, continue to straighten your lifted leg and with every exhalation, allow your hips and muscles to gently open and release
  • Continue to use your breath and allow the hamstrings to lengthen
  • Repeat on side two

 
 

Upward Extended Feet Pose (Urdhva Prasarita Padasana)

Upward Extended Feet Pose is known for strengthening the abdominal muscles, but it targets the very important psoas muscle as well. The psoas joins the upper and lower half of the body and lies deep below the abdominal muscles. Upward Extended Feet Pose is great for targeting that deep area of the abdomen and giving the body the strength needed to bring your foot into a lunge position.
 

upward-extended-foot-pose

YogaJournal


 
How to practice:

  • Begin reclined on your back with the legs lifted and extended toward the ceiling, your arms by your side and palms facing down
  • Keep your core active to keep your low back pressing into the mat
  • Inhale and slowly lower your feet until you notice your low back beginning to lift. When the back lifts, inhale and return the legs to center
  • Connect breath to movement and try 4-5 times before resting

 

Knee to Chest Plank

Although not technically a yoga pose, this exercise will guide you through the necessary movements to prepare your body for the full transition from Down Dog to Low Lunge. Add this into your daily practice, and you will strengthen and lengthen your body to find that smooth transition.
 
knee-to-chest
 
How to practice:

  • Begin in Down Dog. Inhale, lift your right leg up to about hip height
  • On your exhale, shift your weight forward over your wrists into Plank while drawing knee to chest. Try to keep the right foot off the ground and the knee as close to the body as possible
  • On your inhale, extend the right leg back to three-legged Down Dog
  • Repeat five times. Keep your awareness on engaging core and rounding the spine to create space for the knee to get higher
  • If you feel strong with the knee close to the chest, try releasing the foot from the chest to the mat for Low Lunge

 
If you would like to try a few more modifications to this transition, try placing your hands on top of yoga blocks or stacked books in Down Dog to give you a little more height as you move forward into Low Lunge.
 
Does your foot get stuck right before it reaches the top of your mat? No worries! Grab the foot with your hand and help it get to the Low Lunge position.
 
Like anything, this transition takes practice. With time, you’ll be able to transition fluidly from one pose to the next. Keep practicing and find what works for your body and what helps you the most. Don’t allow the voice inside your head to tell you you can’t make this transition. You absolutely can.
 
Have you been struggling with this transition? Tell us about your journey and what has worked for you. Let us know any other tricks you may have learned along the way!
 

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Bianca Williams

Bianca is a foreign language teacher, yoga instructor and international solo traveler. With 10+ years of personal yoga practice across 20+ countries, Bianca creates magical experiences to share with her students all over the world. When she isn’t teaching yoga or languages, you can find her everywhere - from playing capoeira in NOLA to trekking through the Amazon. Check her out at yogawithbianca.net

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