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If you lead an active lifestyle, chances are you have dealt with a sports-related injury or two. The best way to prevent injuries before they happen is to work on increasing your flexibility and ROM (range of motion) on a daily basis. We are constantly stressing our muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons and most of us barely do two minutes of stretching post-physical activity. To fortify your body against a variety of sports injuries stemming from hip rigidity, consider adding the powerful pose High Crescent Lunge to your preventative measures.
This straightforward pose will strengthen your quads, hamstrings, upper back and shoulders through isometric contraction of several major muscle groups. As a balancing pose, High Crescent Lunge is a great way to increase hip and core stability and an excellent stretch for the hip flexors, adductors, calves, and plantar fascia. With arms extended overhead and a gentle backbend come from the upper back, it will also help eliminate rigidity in your back, chest and shoulders– I.e. more ROM! This is a great yoga pose for bicyclists and runners as these athletes tend to have notoriously tight hips/hip flexors and inflexible core muscles from static upper body positioning.
I recently took this pose to new heights at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ (see photo above) but you can do this just about anywhere with little to no warm-up so long as you are patient with your body, use your breath to relax into the hips, and are mindful not to crunch your lower back by lifting up and out of the pelvic girdle by taking the gentle backbend from your upper back.
Here are six easy steps for getting into your best High Crescent Lunge:
1. Begin in Downward-Facing Dog, hands shoulder-width and feet hips-width apart. Step your right foot forward to just inside your right wrist, stacking knee over ankle. Keep your left toes tucked, balancing on the ball of your foot, and make sure that left leg is strong and straight (without locking out the knee).
2. Rise with your breath, bringing your torso upright and arms extending long overhead. Reach through your fingertips to engage your arm muscles, being careful not to tense your shoulders up to your ears. Lift your gaze but don’t crane your neck.
3. Take five deep breaths here. On the inhale, reach as high as you can without changing the height of your hips. Tuck your tailbone, engage your lower abs, and press out through your left heel to enable a sense of lift out of the pelvic girdle. On the exhale, sink lower into your hips but keep your knee tracking over your ankle, wiggling the toes slightly forward if your hips start to open up.
4. For another five breaths, try taking a slight backbend from the middle to upper back—i.e. don’t hinge back from your sacrum. As you inhale, breathe into the front body, broadening the collarbone and sending your sternum high while knitting your front ribs together to keep the transverse abdominals engaged. As you exhale, gradually arch your back, reaching your hands toward the wall behind you. Keep your tailbone reaching toward the floor to protect your lumbar spine.
5. On an inhale, gently lift your torso upright from the backbend, and on an exhale step back to Downward Facing Dog.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 on your left side.
For more yoga poses to help all you athletes avoid injury through simultaneous strengthening and stretching, check out the MOARfit Daily Dozen.