Want to learn more about High Lunge, aka Banarasana? In this post, I share the benefits of High Lunge, a plus complete yoga pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, modifications and more.
Let’s be honest — almost no one calls this pose Banarasana. I had to dig deep to even confirm that it’s the Sanskrit name for this pose. Often, teachers call it Lunge, High Lunge, or sometimes even Low Lunge. Usually, I call Low Lunge the variation with your back knee on the ground and High Lunge the version with your back leg straight.
Banarasana is most often used as a transition pose. In Surya Namaskar, it’s a way to get from Anjaneyasana or Ashwa Sanchalanasana to Plank Pose.
High Lunge is also a great pose to practice for working on squaring your hips, creating isometric strength in your legs, and toning your pelvic floor. It is a great pose to help you set up your foundation for variations such at Crescent Lunge, Twisted Lunge and Virabhadrasana 1.
I hear so many different names for this pose when I practice with other teachers that it gets confusing. Maybe we should all agree to start using the Sanskrit names for these poses to limit confusion.
- Low Lunge is Ashwa Sanchalanasana
- High Lunge is Banarasana
- Low Lunge with back foot flat, arms reaching up and back, with a back bend is Anjaneyasana
- Lunge with your arms reaching up, aka Crescent Lunge, is Ashta Chandrasana
If you want to know more about the benefits of High Lunge, plus tips on how to practice or teach this pose, read on…
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High Lunge Quick Facts
|English||High Lunge Pose / sometimes Low Lunge|
|Meaning||Banaras was the name of Varanasi in medieval India.|
Varanasi is a city in India sometimes referred to as the spiritual home of India. The city name was changed to Varanasi during British rule.
Banarasana means Varanasi Pose.
High Lunge Benefits
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of High Lunge here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of High Lunge include:
- Stretches the hips on the back leg.
- Stretches the psoas muscles.
- Strengthens the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, calf muscles, and hamstrings.
- Engages the deep core muscles, which help create stability.
- Can help alleviate pain caused by sciatica.
- Improves balance.
- Builds strength for the muscles that support the knee.
- The pose can help with proprioception of your hips and helps with learning to square your hips before going into more complicated poses.
- Helps students learn to create isometric strength in legs and tone the pelvic floor, before moving into Crescent Lunge, Twisted Lunge, or Virabhadrasana 1.
Note: Because of the split legs in this pose, much of what is stretched on one side of the pose strengthens when you switch sides.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
If your body requires some extra support in this pose, see the Modifications section below for ideas on how to do this pose safely.
- If you have an injury to your lower back, quadricep, groin, knees or hips, practice this pose with awareness. If you feel pain, come out of the pose and rest.
- If you have a neck injury, be cautious and don’t lift your chin and look up in the pose. Keep your neck long to help build strength in your neck’s supporting muscles.
High Lunge Pose Breakdown
How to do High Lunge / Banarasana
- Stand in Tadasana.
- Fold forward into Uttanasana. Bend your knees as much as you need to so that you can touch the ground.
- Come up onto your finger tips.
- Slide your fingers beside your feet. Step your left leg back. Keep your feet hip-distance apart even as you step back into the lunge shape. Have your right knee over your right ankle so that your shin is straight up and down. Move your left foot back far enough so that the heel of your left foot is over the ball of your left foot, and your left knee joint is straight.
- Isometrically draw your feet towards each other. That means push down through your front foot and, without moving it, pull it back on your mat. Push down through the ball of your back foot and, again without moving it, pull it forward on your mat. This moving without moving is called an isometric engagement. It will help you activate the muscles of your legs, pelvis, and deep core to create stability in your pose before your lift your hands off the ground.
- Line up your wrists directly under your shoulders, press into your fingers tips, and straighten your arms. Look forward and lengthen though your neck.
- Stretch your right knee forward so it is over your ankle.
- Push down through your left toes and straighten your left leg.
- This is Banarasana, or High Lunge.
- Bend your left knee and step forward. Change sides.
- After practicing both sides, come in to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog) for a few breaths.
Note: You can also enter this pose from Adho Mukha Svanasana. However, stepping forward from Downward Facing Dog can be more difficult than stepping back. Also, when stepping back it is easier to ensure your front knee stays over your ankle.
Modifications & Variations
If you lose your balance in this pose:
- Bring your back knee to the ground. This variation has a different name, Ashwa Sanchalanasana, which means Horse Riding Pose — but it is generally called Low Lunge. You may wish to place a yoga blanket under your knee if you have sensitive knees.
- You can also practice High Lunge at a wall with your back foot pressing into the wall. This can help you activate your posterior chain and your deep core, which may give you access to more strength and stability in the pose.
If you can’t touch the ground:
- Place yoga blocks on the ground and place your hands on the blocks.
If you find it difficult to know if your heel is vertical:
- For proper alignment in Banarasana, keep your heel directly above the ball of your foot. This alignment helps you engage muscles all around your leg more evenly so that you have more support in the pose.
- It can be hard to know if you are doing this or not. Practice the pose with your back foot against the wall, so that the entire sole of your foot, from ball of foot to heel, pushes into the wall. This will help you learn what it feels like when your heel is vertical.
Yoga Poses Related to Banarasana
- Vajrasana / Thunderbolt Pose
- Ashwa Sanchalanasana / Low Lunge
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
- Uttanasana / Forward Fold
- Utkatasana / Fierce Pose or Chair Pose
- Virasana / Hero Pose
- Supta Virasana / Reclined Hero Pose
- Virabhadrasana 1 / Warrior 1
- Ashta Chandrasana / Crescent Lunge
- Garudasana / Eagle Pose
- Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog Pose
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
- Anjaneyasana / Son of Anjani Pose
- Parsvottansana / Intense Side Stretch Pose or Pyramid Pose
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 2 / One Leg King Pigeon 2
- Virabhadrasana 3 / Warrior 3
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: Crescent Lunge Benefits & Pose Breakdown
- Post: Virabhadrasana 1 Benefits & Pose Breakdown
- Video: High Lunge Pose Breakdown
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Sustainable Cork Yoga Mat by Corq
- Cork Yoga Blocks
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
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A Final Note About Banarasana
Generally, High Lunge is used as a transition pose, such as during the transition from Crescent Lunge to Plank Pose, or before heading into a Twisted Lunge.
But High Lunge is also a great pose for working on squaring your hips, creating isometric strength in your legs, and toning your pelvic floor. This work can be benficial on its own or before coming into variations such as Crescent Lunge, Twisted Lunge, or even Virabhadrasana 1.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with High Lunge Pose. It’s my goal to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply while enabling you to cultivate the strength and clarity needed to live your life’s adventure to the fullest!