The Back Foot In A High Lunge

swivel the back foot in a high lungeThis post is about the high lunge in yoga where the feet are parallel and the heel of the back foot is up in the air. When we do this type of lunge we are hoping/trying to square the hips to the front of the mat. Ideally, the hip points and shoulders all point straight ahead and are in the same plane.

This is a much easier shape than warrior one position where the back foot is grounded and even though the effort is to square the hips towards the front of the mat, it is not likely to happen. In the high lunge the parallel nature of the feet should allow for the hips to be square. For this to happen, the ball of the back foot should be parallel to the front of the mat as well.

And yet, they rarely are. I teach a lot of lunges with many different variations and when everyone in the room does something it can actually be hard to notice if that thing isn’t for the best. A while back I began to see that most students neglect to keep the back foot truly parallel, letting it turn in the direction of the warrior one foot without putting the heel down.

When I say moving in that direction I mean about a quarter of an inch and that is all it takes from my perspective for so many students to make a simple yet radical change in their practice.

Start by doing some high lunge poses and check to see if the hips are genuinely square to the front of the mat or is the hip of the back leg pulled oh so slightly backwards. Then check the alignment of the back foot. You might find that the ball of the foot is not actually parallel to the front of the mat either.

Swivel the back foot and turn the pinky toe forward about a quarter of an inch. This very slight change might just square up your hips and give you better access to the pose.


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  1. I agree with your post: when I taught (beginner level) yoga classes, I also noticed this tendency of the foot to turn outwards in Warrior two. I wonder if part of this arises from what I believe is some confusion on the part of yoga teachers generally, about the position of the hip in Warrior ONE. Although most yoga teachers teach that one should try to square the hips front in Warrior one, I do not. The reason is that in ballet training, there is a similar controversy: In “battement tendu derriere” (sliding the leg and foot to the back), there are two schools of thought: one (which I used to teach), is that the hips should remain completely square to the front during the whole movement. However, over the years I learned that this severely limited range of motion, and was very confusing to students in trying to lift the leg into a high “arabesque” position. So I gradually converted to the other school of thought, which is that as the leg and foot slide to the back, the hip SHOULD open , but not ‘tip’ or ‘lift’. This allows for a much better line, greater height in extensions and less wear on the low back. It is virtually an identical position to Warrior one, in terms of hip/leg function. If yoga teachers differentiate between ’tilting’ or ‘lifting’ the hip (bad) versus ‘opening’ the hip back (good) this might free students to understand the difference between Warrior one and two. In Warrior two, I fully agree: hips should be square to the front, foot turned completely parallel. Sorry for this lengthy post!!

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