Lizard pose can be a physically advanced posture for most students, which results in a deep stretch for the hip flexors and groin. When practiced mindfully, it can feel great. But I’ve also learned that sometimes, certain postures feel really good at the moment but not so good in the long run for my body. So when I practice deeper stretches like the Lizard pose, I do so with the yogic principles of ahimsa and brahmacharya in mind.
Ahimsa is translated as non-harming, and brahmacharya means moderation of energy. Two solutions have been found on my mat to incorporate them into my practice. First, I try to avoid holding poses for long periods. I usually stay in a pose only three to five times, but never more than one minute. Second, I investigate what T.K. Desikachar refers to as counterposes–balancing the movement in certain intense poses with activities with the opposite energy.
Here are some tips for building a sequence around the Lizard Pose that adheres to ahimsa, brahmacharya, and other principles.
Before stretching muscles, it’s important to warm up the muscles. Plank is the best way to achieve this. It is a great way to strengthen your entire body. Plank is a pose I do every day.
Plank for a few minutes until your body is comfortable. I often combine Downward Dog with Child’s Pose after holding Plank for about a moment. Start your practice with this flow: starting with Plank, then lifting your hips to Down Dog, and finally releasing into Child’s Pose. Each pose should be held for a few breaths.
Ease Into Your Hips
Check your hips after your body has warmed up. This is a pose I love to do in Reclined Pigeon, also called Eye of the Needle Pose or Thread the Needle Pose. Come onto your back, and place the outer foot on top of the opposite leg. Start on either side. Draw the leg towards you by reaching behind that hamstring. You can use a strap if you are unable to get behind the leg.
The most important thing is not to overstretch. Bring your leg just far enough to feel a gentle stretching in your hips, then hold the pose for three to five deep breaths. Release the pose if you feel any sharpness.
The Reclined Pigeon allows you to stretch out your hips gently and awaken the area where your Lizard will be engaged.
Balance Your Body
Now it’s time for some strength training to counteract the stretching. Return to hands and knees in a tabletop position. Imagine that you are balancing water in a glass on your back. Draw the belly towards the spine. The gaze should be downward to protect the neck.
Start by reaching your right leg parallel to the floor. If you wish, you can either stay here or get your left arm forward. Hold your breath for a few seconds. You will feel a deep sense of engagement in your core. Repeat on the other side. Return to the table.
Low Lunge can be a good way to get your body ready for Lizard. If you want to try Low Lunge, I recommend having two blocks at the top of your mat.
Bring your right foot up and place it between your hands. You can either stay here with your hands on your mat, or you could bring your hands to two blocks to provide stability. Your left hip flexor will feel nice and stretched. Continue to breathe for a few seconds, and notice how your hips are feeling. Repeat on the other side.
Listen to your body. You may decide to skip Lizard for today if this stretch is enough. Lizard is the next step if you feel like exploring more.
As you would in Low Lunge, place your right foot between your hands. Sidestep your right leg toward the edge of your mat to move from Low Lunge to Lizard. Now, your right foot is on the outside edge of your right hand. Stay right here.
Bring your forearms up to a block if you like. Lizard is my favorite. You can either release or tuck your back toes. You can try both to see which feels better for you.
Some people are comfortable releasing their arms to the mat. It’s best to remain on the blocks if you have hypermobile. Release the forearms if it feels good for you. I wouldn’t say I like to hold for long periods, so I would only recommend staying in this position for 3 to 5 breaths. Listen to your body, and experiment with different places to find out what works for you. Repeat the process on both sides, then return to the table.
Release into Child’s Pose for a few deep breaths, then return to the tabletop before releasing down onto your back. The bridge is a good counter pose for Lizard. Keep your feet at a hip-width distance and bend both knees. You can place a small block to help engage your core. You place your palms face down on the mat.
Lift your bottom and squeeze your glutes. Keep your base engaged to support your spine. You can also draw your hands under your back to feel your chest rising toward the sky. If you are new, hold Bridge for one minute. Work to your ability and take breaks when needed.
Release into Savasana
As you leave Bridge, bring your body down onto the mat with palms facing up and feet pointing outward. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then, scan your body to find any tension. Exhale it out. Keep your eyes here for at least 5 minutes.
The lizard pose can be an interesting stretch to incorporate into your practice. Play around with the carriage. Note if the left and right sides feel different. Last but not least, don’t forget to breathe deeply. Imagine that your breath is flowing through every cell of your body to bring you into an ideal state of balance.