January 23 marked the start of the lunar new year (aka Chinese New Year) and 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. I welcomed the new year with a series of dragon poses at my 1pm yin yoga class on Monday. It was a hip-intensive class that really breathed some fire into the new year!
Dragon pose is a long-held lunge that’s great at opening hips. It can be quite intense and sometimes stirs up some anger or irritation, but the immediate loosening through the hip flexors, quads, and glutes makes it worthwhile. I feel like I have wonderfully mobile “salsa hips” after a good dragon series, which makes the rage I feel settling into the pose worthwhile and keeps me doing dragons.
I’ve included detailed step-by-step instructions for high-flying dragon below; take a look at the Yin Yoga page on dragons for alternative variations.
High-flying dragon pose
Why it’s good
- Provides a deep hip and groin opener
- Gets into the connective tissue in the hips and helps work deeply into hip socket
- Stretches hip flexors and quadriceps
- Some variants also stretch the glutes, calves, Achilles, and feet
- Builds strength through the legs and core
- Improves balance
- Releases tension (and anger!) from the hips
How to do it
- Warm up your hips first with some gentler hip openers (like butterfly or half sleeping baby), then move into all fours or down dog
- Step your right foot between your palms and rest your left knee on the mat
- Add a foam chip block or folded blankets under your left knee to cushion the joint
- Relax your pelvis towards the mat until you feel a stretch at the front of your left thigh and groin
- Keep your right foot in-line with your right knee and hip and your left foot in-line with your left knee and hip
- Square your hips toward the front of your mat
- Lift your torso upright and rest your hands on your right knee for balance
- If you’re feeling well-balanced, bring your hands behind your back and interlock your fingers in yoga mudra
- If your hands are in yoga mudra, focus on letting them come towards the floor, relaxing your shoulders, and opening your chest
- Feel your spine lengthen as you inhale and relax your pelvis down as you exhale
- Let your breath out forcefully (as if you were breathing fire) to release anger and really embody a dragon – also just because it’s fun 😉
- Settle into the pose and remain still for one to five minutes
- Keep your breathing even and unforced
- Relax your shoulders
- Find a drishti (or focal point) to still your gaze and help settle your mind
- Don’t fidget, but adjust your position if your body invites you to deepen the posture or if the pose feels painful or too intense
- Follow the guidance for coming out of dragon below and then repeat – stepping your left food between your palms
To come out of dragon:
- Roll back onto your left heel, stretching your right leg straight in front of you
- Pull your right toes back and hold them with your right hand if possible
- Feel the stretch through your right calf and the back of your thigh
- Release your right toes and come to all fours
- Push back into each hip, drawing a horseshoe shape with your hips
- Hopefully the loosening in your left hip (and possibly your right, too!) provides serious motivation for coming into dragon on the other side!
After holding dragon on each side for a few minutes, coming into a recuperative position like child’s pose can be particularly nice. Child’s pose is also good because it also gets into the hips and can help you feel the impact of your dragons.