The ‘crescent’ part of this asana refers to the shape the posture takes
‘Anjaneya’ is another name for the deity Hanuman
This week sees a full moon on the lunar calendar, which for some means no practicing at all, and for others it means paying close attention to how our practice affects us, as the energy of the moon seems to effect some more than others.
Although this might seem like another strange thing your yoga teacher might say in class, the lunar cycles really do have a profound impact not just on the world around us, but on our bodies and minds too. Just as the tides of the sea are governed by how full the moon is or how close it is in proximity to the earth, the water content in our bodies is effected too. It seems that the gravitational pull of the moon encourages the ocean’s tides to be at their maximum range – i.e. the low tides are very low and the high tides are very high.
We are made of around 50-70% water (around 78-80% for infants), and so the water in our bodies is indeed effected by this gravitational pull. We may feel more flexible or able to push ourselves further in our practice at this time, which is why it’s even more important to be mindful of our movements, so as not to over do it and cause injury.
Our moods also seem to be at their maximum range when the moon is full, so set your intention for your practice towards something positive in order to make the most of your energy.
Understandably this may still all sound like a load of rubbish, but sometimes we need to remember that we as humans are part of nature too. While we may think of carpets and concrete walls as our natural habitat, the world outside is far more a part of us than we may realise….
Anjaneyasana, ‘low lunge’ or ‘crescent lunge’ helps to open the hip flexors and thighs, and by taking the approach I offer HERE, also helps us strengthen the inner legs and connect to our core. Once we’ve found stability in the posture, then we can start to play with variations to open up the quadriceps and hips further.
Overly ‘tight’ or habitually contracted quadriceps can lead to misalignments in the knees and more tightness in the hip flexors. As we know, an issue in one muscle group isn’t just isolated to that particular area, it creates a ripple effect of problems throughout the rest of the body.
Misalignments in the knees and tightness in the hips causes the rest of the body to compensate, often resulting in recruitment of the poor old lower back muscles, and muscles of the shoulders and neck which we tend to contract when we’re under stress or in pain.
This variation of anjaneyasana can provide a fun challenge when we approach it in the right way; thinking about this as experimenting and just seeing what happens as we practice, rather than forcing ourselves in to an asana!
To prepare the body for this variation of anjaneyasana:
Move through a few rounds of the classical surya namaskar, which includes lunges to prepare the body early on for this posture.
When you’ve completed 3 to 5 rounds, make your way on to all fours for what is sometimes known as ‘tiger’s tail’: As you inhale, open the chest and draw the tailbone up towards the ceiling as you would in cat / cow, but this time raise your [right] leg. Keep the leg bent and continue this movement for a few rounds. As you inhale open the chest and raise the leg, and as you exhale curl the knee in towards the chest.
After a few rounds, pause with the chest open and the leg in the air, and reach the [left] hand back behind you to hold the foot or ankle.
This mixture of a balance, a backbend and an opener for the hips and thighs is a simple way to open the whole front of the body, which is especially useful for when the weather turns colder and we develop the ‘Winter hunch’….
Practice this to both sides of the body, and then make your way in to downward facing dog. From there, walk the feet forwards and pause in uttanasana (forward fold) with the knees softly bend and the neck relaxed.
- From uttanasana, exhale as you take a big step back with the [right] foot, bringing the right knee down to the floor.
- Keep the hands on the floor either side of the front foot to begin with.
- As you inhale, circle the left arm back behind you, opening up the chest.
- Shuffle the back knee back slightly and sink gently through the hips.
- Bend the back knee and if you can reach it, hold the back foot or ankle with your [left] hand. If the hand won’t reach the foot, you could use a belt and hook it around the foot. Be mindful not to get in to the habit of using the belt all the time though, as although props are extremely useful when we need them, it’s important to remember not to rely on them all the time!
- Push the foot into the hand and begin to open up the [left] shoulder, revolving the chest around to the ceiling.
- Be aware of maintaining space around the shoulders and ears, and lengthening the back of the neck as you take 5-10 full, deep breaths. Remember, our body responds better to what we ask it to do when we maintain consciously calm breaths.
- When you’re ready to transition out, release the hand and foot back down to the floor and come back in to anjaneyasana.
- Step forwards to uttanasana as you exhale, before practicing this on the other side.
- To counterpose this variation of anjaneyasana, come to sit on the floor and practice paschimottanasana to bring some stability back to the quadriceps and grounding through the hips.
If you want to bring some creativity and flexibility into your practice, try this variation of anjaneyasana and be mindful of any effects the cycles of nature may have on you this week.