Pose Breakdown: Dragons (Lunges + Splits)

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Nancy Nelson

Let’s talk about the many dragon poses. This pose family consists of lunges and split variations. This post is an update to two older posts with all the information simplified and condensed to one article! View the other articles below:

This posture offers great stimulation to the hips, spine, knees and ankles.

The Basics of the Dragon Family

Other names | Lizard (yang), Anjaneasana / kneeling crescent (yang)

Helpful props | Block, blanket or small flat cushion for knees, bolster

Meridians | Lower Body: Stomach, Spleen, Liver, Gallbladder, Kidney, Bladder

Benefits | Physical

  • Stretches the hip flexor muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Opens the hips externally (especially the winged variation)
  • Stimulates blood circulation to pelvis and restores circulatory balance between upper and lower body

Benefits | Mental / Emotional

Timing | Think about how long overall you want to devote to this pose family. I usually aim for about 8-10 minutes total. But I have also taught them all over the course of 20-30 minutes of the class. 2-5 minutes per variation is a good distribution to aim for.

Variation | Baby Dragon

Baby dragon is just that, a baby version of the deepest options within this posture. It’s often used as the foundation to establishing awareness and waking the tissues that will be stimulated in this family of postures.

This variation is a kneeling lunge (back knee down) with the hands framing the feet on either side. This can be done elevated to blocks if the floor isn’t accessible.

Variation | Dragon Flying High

For those of us who find ourselves with tight hip flexors – this one is a fiery dragon. The flying high option deeply stimulates the front hips and lower back. Hands can come to the front knee, but if you’re holding this one a couple of minutes, a block to either side will serve you well.

Variation | Dragon Flying Low

In the low flying dragon, we shift a bit. The hands come to the inside of the front leg’s foot. Inching the foot over will ensure ample space for your upper body. There are several options to meet your body’s needs in terms of height and depth. I recommend starting higher and inching slowly down toward your body’s stopping point for the day. After all, you do have time here. If you rush the process you rob yourself of the opportunity for stillness.

Let’s also remember here… the floor is not the goal. Depth is relative. We are seeking that goldilocks sensation. Wherever you end up in that is all that matters.

Variation | Winged Dragon

For me, the winged option is a sigh of relief. Letting the knee drop out shifts the intensity of this pose more into the inner groin. Feel free to keep the back hip level if that is safest in your body or allow that hip to drop down. An added bolster along the back hip and front of the pelvis is a nice restorative option here.

In this variation, you just want to keep an eye on knee and ankle sensations in the front leg. Typically, you will turn the knee and foot out slightly and let the inner foot lift. Experiment to find your sweet spot!

Variation | Dragon Overstepping

Overstepping dragon is one that’s a bit less practiced. For years yoga teachers have preached “knee over ankle” so the knee going beyond the ankle is often avoided. Personally, I’ve explored knee beyond ankle more and more in my yin and yang practices and have found it to actually provide more stability to my knee and ankle joints. I think the heart of that cue is just about keeping things safe, but with pressure comes healthy stress – which our joints need so they are less susceptible to injury!

Ok – soap box over. If you’re open to explore this, go for it! Your depth and range of motion will likely look different than mine or even vary from each side in your own body. Find that balance. To really target the back leg’s hip flexor, curl the back toes and let the head hang a bit.

Variation | Dragon Splits

The splits is a tricky one to add into a yin practice. It is immediately intense so my best advice is to approach it g r a d u a l l y. When I teach this pose, I often encourage students to find a half splits for the first bit of time (1-2 minutes), then to work toward a really propped variation and if it’s desired to go deeper from there.

As for props, some kind of cushion under the back knee is a nice option. When working deeper, I prefer a bolster right under the pelvis or under the front hamstring. Staying upright will stimulate the lower back and more intensity into the hip flexors. Folding will target the length of the spine and the front hamstring more.

Alternatives | If you need an alternate position, here are some good options.

Counter Postures

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Nancy Nelson
Nancy Nelson
Nancy is the fearless leader here at Nancy Nelson Yoga! She has been instructing yoga since 2012 and is certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) with Yoga Alliance. She loves guiding yoga classes in all forms – from sweaty vinyasa flows, to slow mindful movement - but her favorite style to practice and teach is yin yoga. She attended a formal 50-hour Yin Yoga training with Bernie Clark and Diana Batts in the fall of 2018 and it truly propelled her into developing her yin focused website, webinars and trainings.

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