Dragon Pose and Variations
The Dragon poses are the ones in yoga class where everyone moans out loud (almost, but not quite as loud for Frog pose) but you’re all secretly thanking your teacher for placing this in today’s class. It’s also a pose that I almost have to force myself into during my home practice, but my body usually obliges when it realizes just how much sitting/driving/travelling I’ve done that week.
Dragon pose is very simple to come into and out of but -get this- it has eight different variations. While some of them have their own individual benefits, they can help improve the health of the hip flexors and to relieve tension from the quadriceps. Because of the deep stretch on the joint, they may help to improve sciatica.
You can come into the basic Dragon from either Down Dog or a table-top, hands and knees position, whichever is more comfortable for you. From whichever position you chose, step the right foot through to the hands and “help” it forward (this may mean physically picking it up and setting it down) until the knee is directly over the ankle. Now, wiggle the left (back leg) back until it is fully extended. Place hands on either side of the right food, using blocks or other props to lift the hands if this is too intense. This is the first variation on “Dragon Pose” and is also known as “Baby Dragon”.
For the next variation, rest the hands on the “standing thigh” and in this case that would be the right one. Allow your weight to sink into the hips for a deeper stretch. This is called “Dragon Flying High”.
A more intense version of the previous variation is “Dragon Flying Low”. Rest both arms on the inside of the right (standing) leg. Walk the arms away and rest on the forearms for the deepest version.
For “Twisted Dragon”, remain in the previous variation but use the right arm to push the right leg away and rotate the chest towards the sky.
Keeping the forearms on the inside of the right leg, wing the right knee out a few times until you are comfortably resting on the outside edge of that foot. This is “Winged Dragon”.
Starting again in Baby Dragon, shift all of your weight into the front knee, so much so that the heel of the “standing” foot is about to lift off of the ground. This will intensify the sensation in the back hip flexor and also strengthen the front ankle joint. This is called “Overstepping Dragon”.
“Dragon Splits” is the most advanced expression of the pose. Straighten both legs into a splits position. Supporting the front leg with a bolster or other prop allows the muscles to relax for a better experience in this expression.
The final variation, “Fire-Breathing Dragon”, can be done during any of the former variations. Simply tuck the toes of the back foot and lift the resting knee.
My previously-stated love/hate relationship with Dragon Pose means that I enjoy playing with the different variations (except for the splits…I’m not sure I’ll ever get there!). A word of caution…always do the same to both sides. Walking around with one tight hip flexor and one loose is a very strange sensation. And while you’re at it….enjoy it!
Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com