The Asana Lab - Lizard Pose

Ahhh what a hip opener! 

Lizard Pose or Utthan Pristhasana works deep into the hip flexor and groin muscles, both strengthening and lengthening them at the same time. There are many, many variations and different ways that you can use props in this asana in order to make yourself feel comfortable but invigorated at the same time. 

We hold a lot of emotion in our hips, and particularly when we are stressed we have a reflex that automatically uses the full plethora of hip flexor muscles to pull your knees up towards your chest. Unfortunately, for those who sit regularly we are more at risk of this reflex taking over because our legs are already in the starting position when stress starts to kick in. 

It's important to remember that there is a difference to good and bad pain, and in particular in Lizard Pose it's really important to listen to your body and feel which one it is, prop your back knee onto a bolster/pillow/blanket or place your elbows on a block/pillow/bolster if necessary to alleviate any 'bad' pain. Take deep breaths and give your muscles the chance to relax before you come out of the pose. 

I recommend, similar to pigeon pose, to hold this one for around 10 deep breaths as a minimum, if not more, the hip flexors are tough muscles and don't like being stretched so the longer you breathe into this pose the more benefits you will see, and quicker. 

Like always, make sure to only do what you feel comfortable with within reason. It's your body and you want to treat it like gold! 

Here are a few variations for you to try at home...

Variation 1: Extra Tight Hips 


Variation 2: Tight Hips


Variation 3: A little bit stronger... 

For this final variation, if you want to make the stretch stronger you can let you knee fall out to the side. This adds a little bit more punch and stretch into your front hip. 

The Asana Lab - Downward Facing Dog

What a great way to start a brand new segment you will see once a week on my blog, The Asana Lab. 

Inspired by a class I attended at Wanderlust Festival, this regular addition will help you explore asana's or yoga postures a little differently or maybe it will inspire you to try something new. 

So I thought I would start with the phenomenon that is Downward Facing Dog. This asana or posture has to be the most popular and well known yoga posture in the world, and that's potentially because it is a very attainable pose with a HUGE range of benefits. 

Ever heard a yoga teacher say "breathe in as you lift your hips to the sky, adho mukha svanasana" and wondered what they are talking about? Well Adho Mukha Svanasana is the sanskrit translation of the pose and literally translates to down-face-dog-pose. 

The benefits of this pose are endless, everything from a subtle strengthening of the shoulder and wrist joints, a beautiful stretch through the spine, backs and insides of the legs, a gentle toe and foot stretch, an inversion combined with abdominal strengthening and more... 

But for all it's benefits and promotion across the world I too often see a downward facing dog where the pressure is uneven between hands or feet or all of the above, and I myself am no stranger to needing some gentle cues to adjust my 'dog' in order to come to a pose that is most beneficial for my body and my mind. 

So here are a few of the cues, starting from your base that you need to know to perfect your Adho Mukha Svanasana:

  • Spread your fingers wide, place your hands shoulder distance apart, make sure your middle fingers are parallel to each other and facing directly ahead
  • Press the ground away from you, straighten your arms and pull your humerus into your shoulder sockets (pull your arms into the shoulder joint), create room between your neck and your ears
  • Keep your ears in line with your arms, don't extend your neck too far
  • Pull your naval into your spine, allow your pelvis room to tilt
  • Stretch and extend through your legs, activate your heels and push them to the floor (ps. it doesn't matter if they don't touch the ground)
  • Try to place even weight between your hands and your feet, adjust the distance between them to find your very own sweet spot