This pose is a very familiar looking pose. Most of you have done it without even knowing its roots are in Yoga. The Cresent Lunge or Runner's Stretch is many stretches all in one, which makes it a great stretch for athletes to incorporate into their routines. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the particulars of runner’s stretch so you are assured perfect alignment.
Begin the pose on your hands and knees (table pose). Bring the right foot forward between the hands, bring it forward enough so the right knee is directly over the right ankle or heel and forms a 90 degree angle. This will create a strong base with the least amount of strain and effort. Tuck the left toes under and extend the left leg so much the leg straightens out completely. You can also perform a variation of this pose with your left knee down on the floor. It is important that you peek down and make sure your left heel is straight up to the sky and you are on all five left foot toes. This will guarantee the safety of the knee.
Lift up onto the fingertips and start to extend the spine and elongate the neck. You can place blocks under the fingers too, if you need more room. Square the hips to the front of the room, your shoulders as well. Make certain that your knee always tracks directly over your foot, again to secure the safety of the right knee. You can start to tuck the tailbone under to increase the left hip flexor (front top of the thigh). Press all the way back through the left heel and lengthen the energy all the way through the top of your head.
You can stay here for several breaths or you can climb the hands onto your right thigh and hold, or you can bring your arms up to the sky…palms facing each other with extraordinary length in your side body and hold. Whatever variation you chose, think as much about length in your spine as you do the depth on flexion in your right knee.
Come out of the pose and switch sides.
The role of runner’s stretch is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
For the lay person or yogi, this pose is a great choice for helping you increase your balance. Anytime you are working with balance in a pose you are tapping into the use of the abdominal muscles, it is very subtle but effective. When balance is achieved you are forced to be in a more focused state…therefore clearing your mind and deepening your breath. Balance is not always the point in the center, once it is realized peace is prevailing and everything can rest easy. There is no conflict in the body. That is a great lesson for us to feel and conquer to translate over into our daily lives.
For the Athlete, in addition to a superior way to work and obtain balance, it is a perfect choice to open the hip flexors and front of the thigh. We focus a lot on the tightness of the hamstrings, the truth is you need to address the complimentary muscles just as much to increase flexibility. When an athlete opens both muscles, it becomes easier to run and jump and of course recover! You reduce the incident of future injury by being more symmetrical, so there is less stress and strain in one direction. You also help the pressure on the knee by opening and releasing the hip joint more deeply.
Although you should consult your physician and research a properly trained yoga teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body!
About the Author
Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen’s unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy,and nutrition, provide her clients, and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga coach for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, New York Rangers, several major college teams,including Yale and UNC, and many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea, and ambassador for Lululemon, her writing appears in Men's Health, Women's Health, Fitness Magazine and shape.com. She has made appearances on NBC TODAY show and many TV news and national radio shows. Gwen also owns her own Yoga School where she trains people to teach the power yoga for sports system.
Gwen lives in the New York tri state area with her Husband, and three teenage boys.