Breath or prana is one of the most important aspects of yoga. Whether you can contort…
Dragon Pose is the Yin Yoga name for Ashwa Sanchalanasana, also called Equestrian Pose in English. It’s a deep hip opener that stretches your quads and back, and strengthens your core, arms, and legs.
Benefits of Dragon Pose
Yin Yoga is a practice that’s more passive and meditative than other yoga styles such as Vinyasa and Hatha Flow. It mixes traditional asanas with the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine to activate certain meridians in the body.
Dragon Pose is believed to activate the Stomach-Spleen channels in the body and is related to the earth element which helps you gain security, stability, endurance, and balance.
Poses in Yin Yoga are held for an average of three minutes. The body needs some time to find a way to relax and let go of tension in the joints, connective tissue, and muscles.
How to Get into Dragon Pose
There are different levels of Dragon Pose in Yin Yoga, but all of them must be approached with a Yin mindset – meditative, receptive even when the pose feels more intense, and allowing your body to naturally open up and work into the fascia, ligaments, and tissues of your joints.
The first level is Baby Dragon. To start, get into a low lunge. Put a blanket under your back knee if you feel too much pressure. This will also help you push into the top of your back foot so that your knee, in turn, does not push directly into the ground.
Position your front knee so that it’s directly over your front ankle to form a 90-degree angle. Place your fingertips or your palms on the mat on either side of your front foot. Allow your hips to sink down. Even though this is the mildest form of the asana, which is also why it’s called Baby Dragon Pose, it can already be quite challenging to hold this pose for three minutes.
To move to the next level of Dragon Pose, move your front foot a few inches forward to help bring up your torso. Relax your lower back and buttocks and allow the weight of your body to help you sink into your hips. Place your hands either on your hips or your front knee.
Dragon Flying High
The third level of this asana is Dragon Flying High. In this final variation of the pose, inhale and raise your arms up to reach the sky and slightly tuck your chin in towards your chest to elongate your spine.
Dragon Flying Low
A fourth variation of this pose is called Dragon Flying Low. In this version, place your hands on the ground and lean your body forward as much as possible. Drape your body over your front knee and relax your neck to lower your head and release as much muscular tension as possible.
Hold the pose on this side for 2-5 minutes. Before switching sides, rest in Child’s Pose or Savasana for 1-3 minutes. Alternatively, you may also release your lower back with a few breaths in Downward Facing Dog before repeating the pose on the opposite side.
Variations and Support with Props
As you hold this pose, always make sure to check in with your body. You may need to add more or less padding under your back knee as you hold the pose for a few minutes. You may also need to place your hands on yoga blocks on both side of your body for support.
With repeated practice, you probably reach a point at which you feel a slight sensation of discomfort while your body opens up, but you should never feel any kind of pain that might cause more tightness and contraction in your body.
Remember that no matter what yoga style you practice, you should never consider it to be a competition. It doesn’t matter how deep or not you are able to get into a pose, or if you need to release the pose before the given time is up. It’s more important to be present and mindful with yourself and let go of negative thoughts such as critique, doubt, or judgement that may arise as you practice this challenging asana.
Preparatory Yoga Poses
Supplement your practice with other asanas to help strengthen your body and increase the range of motion that’s necessary for getting into Dragon Pose. Here are some other yoga poses which will help open your hip flexors, lengthen your hamstrings, and strengthen your abdomen and back muscles.
Virabhadrasana I – Warrior 1
Warrior 1 helps open your hip flexors and strengthen your back and core muscles. Your back leg will get a good hamstring stretch while your front quad and calf are strengthened. While holding Warrior 1, make sure that both of your hips are facing forward and that your front knee does not collapse internally or bend too far forward and past your front ankle.
Hand to Big Toe Pose
Whether you practice Hand to Big Toe Pose while standing or lying down, it helps to increase hip mobility while you stretch your hamstrings and adductors. Never go past your own edge where the sensations you feel turn into pain. Use a yoga strap to extend your reach if you cannot grip your big toe with your leg extended or your knee bent.
Ardha Hanumanasana – Half Split Pose
Half Splits and Front Splits will help lengthen your hamstrings and adductors to go deeper into Dragon Pose. They will also help strengthen your back and core to hold your body up for longer periods of time. Keep your front foot flexed to protect your knee and engage your front thigh to lift your kneecap and lengthen your hamstrings. Just like in Dragon Pose, push into the top part of your back foot to keep the pressure off your back knee that’s on the ground.
Reclined Pigeon is a variation of Pigeon Pose which you practice while lying on your back. It helps open up your hip flexors by relaxing into the asana, rather than pushing into it. To protect your knees, especially if your hips are still tight, keep your feet flexed as you pull your bent knee in towards your chest. At the same time, allow the other knee to open up to the side as much as possible to maintain the figure four shape with your legs.
Malasana – Full Yogic Squat
While Malasana, Garland Pose or Full Yogic Squat, can be a challenging asana in and of itself, it also targets many muscle groups and joints that work together in this pose. Practicing this pose is a great way to prepare for a number of other yoga asanas, including Dragon Pose.
As you practice your full squats, keep your knees apart and toes pointing forward. If your heels lift off the ground, place a folded blanket underneath them for support.
Conclusion on Dragon Pose in Yin Yoga
Dragon Pose may at first seem like a challenging and activating pose, but once you’re able to hold it for the recommended 3-5 minutes (or longer), you will begin to feel and see the Yin benefits. You will begin to feel more comfortable as your body relaxes and sinks into the pose for that deep stretch that targets the muscular fascia, tendons, and joint tissues.