Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
High Lunge, Crescent Variation is a demanding, somewhat advanced pose that requires balance and strength. It asks for power to firm your feet, legs and glutes, as well as the flexibility to lengthen the hamstring while opening the hip flexor. The upper body extends and opens, creating a slight backbend.
The need for balance comes in because the back heel is lifted. Any instability that causes can be counteracted by squeezing the inner thighs together and activating the core. Press through the front big toe to get even more steadiness in this pose. Also called Ashta Chandrasana, it makes a moon shape—the crescent that occurs between the New Moon and Full Moon.
The natural lunar cycle can stand for setting intentions and also releasing them, and you can take that energetic idea into this asana. Add the symbolism with the strength, balance and openness of the pose, and High Lunge, Crescent Variation can feel very good in the body. Many people enjoy taking this position and find that it brings positive feelings—and even inspiration.
High Lunge, Crescent Variation: Step-by-Step Instructions
- Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog). Exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning your knee over the heel. Keep your left leg strong and firm.
- Inhale and raise your torso to upright. At the same time, sweep your arms wide to the sides and raise them overhead, palms facing.
- Be careful not to overarch the lower back. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and reach back through your left heel. This will bring the shoulder blades deeper into the back and help support your chest. Look up toward your thumbs.
- Be sure not to press the front ribs forward. Draw them down and into the torso. Lift the arms from the lower back ribs, reaching through your little fingers. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Then exhale, release the torso to the right thigh, sweep your hands back onto the floor, and, with another exhale, step your right foot back and return to Down Dog. Hold for a few breaths and repeat with the left foot forward for the same length of time.
Variation on a Chair
For a supported Crescent Lunge, practice the shape of the pose using a chair. Sit facing the side of a chair with your right hip and thigh slightly off the edge of the seat. Step your right foot back as far as you are able; your leg may be bent or straight back. Keep your spine long and your torso erect. Reach both arms up toward the ceiling and arch your back.
Contraindications and Cautions
High blood pressure
- If the balance is wobbly, try pressing the front big toe firmly into the mat while taking a strong drishti. The drishti is a soft gaze point. Direct the student to look at a non-moving spot on the floor or the wall. This focuses the mind and steadies the body, stabilizing the body.
- If for any reason the pose is too demanding, students can always bring the back knee down and keep the hands on the hips. This will give more points of contact with the floor and make the pose much more stable.
- If you want to get into it but are still having trouble, use a chair. You can hold the back of a chair in lunge instead of raising the arms. Or slip the seat of the chair under the front thigh giving you a nice lift and support for the back leg.
- You may see students getting very enthusiastic in this pose. They may take the front thigh parallel to the floor. Just watch that their front knee does not go beyond a 90-degrees angle and that the knee does not move passed the ankle. That can take the pose out of the quad (we want it in the quad) and into the knee (which is painful and injurious).
- In order to square the hips toward the front of the mat, have students put a slight bend in the back knee. This helps tilt the pelvis posteriorly, helping the hip points move forward. Once the hips feel square and the pelvis is titled forward, students can straighten the back knee again which may help them go deeper into the asana.
- As students raise their hands, gaze up and begin to extend the spine into a backbend, their ribs may protrude. This is a sign that there is too much pressure on the low back. Cue students to keep the ribs in and hug the navel in toward the spine as they extend further backward.