The dragon pose in yin yoga is the antidote for hours of sitting in a chair each day! There is no other pose that opens the hip flexors, in the front of your hips, quite like this pose!
Yin Yoga is a meditative practice that helps you quiet your body and consequently quiet your mind. It is observing your body without judgement, and accepting it, exactly where it lands. It is a slow, gentle practice of opening and releasing, without striving, pushing and most importantly, without effort.
Throughout this website, on the Yin Yoga pose pages, I have discussed the benefits of this meditative practice. I will refer you to my articles, What is Yin Yoga, and Deepening Your Practice with Yin Yoga, to provide you with the background necessary for learning the fundamentals.
The difference between Yin and Yang Yoga, may at times seem subtle, however it is the state of your body and the state of your mind that is different, which is difficult to depict in pictures. In Yin Yoga we disengage the muscles so that we can work deeper into the "yin" tissues of the joints, tendons, ligaments and the muscle fascia.
To convey the difference between Yin and Yang Yoga, the names of the poses are intentionally different, even though many of the yoga poses appear to be the same.
You may immediately recognize the yang yoga pose of the low lunge, when you first see the pictures of the various Dragon Poses. However, you will soon discover, during your practice of the yin version of the pose, that when you hold it for 3-5 minutes at your edge of comfort, the amazing difference your body feels.
You will feel restless and irritated and it will be difficult to hold the pose. I guarantee it!
The purpose of the yin yoga practice is using yoga for healing in a mindfulness fashion. According to BKS Iyengar, one of the founders of modern, Western yoga, you cannot know a pose until you have held it for 30 minutes! I challenge anyone to hold this one for that long! Believe me, holding the dragon poses in a 3-5 minute time frame feels like an eternity!
Begin the pose by coming into a comfortable low lunge position as shown in the first photo, below. If you tend to get sore knees, place a blanket in two layers under your back knee to help pad it. It doesn't matter which leg you place forward first. Just ensure that the forward knee is directly aligned above the forward ankle, in 90 degrees as shown, so there is no pressure on the forward knee.
This beginning, more mild position of the lunge is often referred to in Yin Yoga as the "Baby Dragon."
Assess your body here. Notice if you feel any tugging at the front of the hip of the back leg. If you do, and it is too strong to hold for at least a minute, walk your forward foot back a bit until you come to a more comfortable edge. Readjust your front leg to ensure the alignment of the knee and ankle.
Remember, that as you hold the pose, over time, the hip flexor in the front of your hip may open, and you may walk the front leg out again. But it is always more therapeutic to hold a mild edge for a longer period of time, than a strong edge for a shorter period of time. Tissue only changes over a long time, so the longer you are able hold the opening, the more therapeutic it can be.
If you have found that you can go much deeper into the Dragon Pose, before you feel even a mild edge, go ahead and continue to walk your front leg forward until you feel an interesting tug at the front of your back hip. Something that feels not too uncomfortable, yet interesting. This is your first edge.
Lift your upper body up tall, with your hands on your forward thigh, as shown in the second picture, below. Now allow the weight of your upper body to help you sink your hips down toward the ground. This should take you to your second edge.
This pose, called the Dragon Flying High, is more of a yang yoga pose, but because you will hold it for 3-5 minutes, you must focus and practice your internal methods, as I describe below, or you will not be able to hold the intense opening of the hip flexor of the forward leg for that long.
If your energy is lower on a given day, and you wish to make this pose as Yin as possible, take it to the Dragon Pose, Flying Low, shown in the third picture, below. Lean forward and place your hands on the ground, one on each side of your forward foot. Relax and drape your upper body over your forward knee. You can even lower you head and neck to release as much muscle activity as possible.
If you have short arms, and it is difficult to maintain this pose, try using two yoga blocks to place your hands on instead of the ground. This increased my own comfort in this pose enormously, because your back can be more relaxed and rounded.
Once you have set up the pose, again, allow your hips to relax and sink towards the earth. Play with the appropriate edge and settle in for 3-5 minutes, or even longer if you wish.
Whichever Dragon Pose you choose, make sure that you allow sufficient time to practice the pose on the opposite side as well. It will take 10 minutes if you do one pose, and hold each side for 5 minutes.
This is a contemplative practice, NOT to be rushed! This can be an edgy pose, so do not judge your lack of openness, but just know that the more you do this pose, over time, your body will open, bringing you more health, more joint mobility, more range of motion and a more graceful aging process!
To your dragon pose routine you can also add the Twisted Dragon Pose, for a nice twist to light your internal fire.
Resist the urge to fidget while you hold the Dragon Pose. As you calm your body and hold it still, you will find that your mind also will eventually quiet.
Resist the urge to plan your dinner, plan your next trip, or worry about the family, and so on. Instead practice mindfulness of your breath. Focus your attention on deepening and slowing your breath, in any way that you chose. I have many articles to help you learn to breathe appropriately when you hold the pose.
You may refer to the following articles:
All the long-held Yin Yoga poses increase their therapeutic effect by opening and balancing the chakra energy centers of your body. When the front body is opened, as in the hip opening of the Dragon Poses, your second and third chakra energy centers are stimulated and opened. Plus this particular pose requires lots of grounding energy, so your first chakra is also stimulated.
When your chakra energy centers are open and stimulated, it brings you balance, increased energy, and feelings of well-being and groundedness. Contemplate how you are energizing yourself when you do this pose! Especially when you don't want to hold it any longer!
May you use your Dragon Pose, as a technique for opening your hips and your grounding energy centers. You too can use yoga for healing when you practice this pose. May your mindfulness of your breath and your body, heal your body, mind and soul!
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