How to Do Lizard Pose: Strengthen Your Legs and Boost Your Hip Mobility

Lizard Pose
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Lizard Pose Yoga
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Purpose

Here are some of the reasons why Lizard Pose is good for you:

  • Stretches and opens the hips increasing mobility and flexibility
  • Stretches and strengthens glutes, hamstrings, and the spine, releasing tension in the back 
  • Helps reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting or inactivity
  • Helps relieve soreness in the inner thighs
  • Can help lengthen your stride, increase power and agility in changing directions, and reduce the risk of injury to your hamstrings

Pose Guide

Do’s—In order to do Lizard Pose correctly, here are the steps:

Steps to do lizard pose correctly
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  • Begin on your hands and knees with your hands close to the short edge of your mat 
  • Align your hands directly beneath your shoulders with your middle fingers facing forward.
  • Align your knees directly beneath your hips and your feet directly behind your knees.
  • Shift your weight into your left leg, and bring your right leg forward placing your right foot just outside your right hand. Your right knee will be bent and stacked directly over your foot.Your hips will stay squared to the front of your mat. You should feel a stretch in front of the left hip, above the thigh.
  • Pivot on your right heel to rotate your toes out about 45 degrees.
  • Lengthen your spine, and engage your core. 
  • Lower your forearms to the floor, placing your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and your hands directly in front of your elbows. Your middle fingers are still facing forward.
  • Press the hands into the ground to activate the arms.
  • Hug your right knee against the right arm and shoulder engaging the inner thigh. You will feel a stretch in the right hamstrings and glutes.
  • Scoop your hips forward and down toward the ground, feeling a stretch in the hip flexor, in front of the left thigh.
  • Continue to lengthen the spine and engage the core as you focus your gaze forward.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Practical Tips

Don’ts—Common mistakes beginners make in lizard:

Common mistakes in lizard pose
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Lizard pose common mistakes
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  • Not engaging the inner thighs: There’s a lot going on in this pose. It can be difficult to keep it all happening at once. Beginners especially can forget to engage the inner thighs during Lizard. However, activating the inner thigh of the back leg can be a real game changer in how you experience this pose. It pulls the alignment together making it easier to maintain the position, and it intensifies the strengthening and stretching benefits through the thighs and groin muscles. If you’re having trouble understanding how to engage your inner thigh, think about trying to rotate the front of your thigh toward the midline of your body, while still keeping the knee facing the ground and the foot reaching directly behind your hip.
  • Letting the bent knee sway out away from the body: It’s common to find the front bent knee swaying out away from the body in this pose. When you amplify the external rotation of the front hip in that way, you are diminishing the stretch available for your glutes and hamstrings. This can also exacerbate sciatic discomfort and low back tension. For proper form, hug your front bent knee into your arm and shoulder maintaining active contact for the duration of the pose.
Letting the bent knee sway out away from the body
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Letting bent knee sway out away from the body
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  • Forgetting to engage the core: Because Lizard is such an involved pose with several active parts, the core can sometimes get a little lazy and start drooping down toward the ground. This can weaken the pose, opening your back, glutes and hips up for potential injury or unnecessary tension. Keep the core engaged during the entirety of the pose to create a strong foundation for the back of the body, making for a safer and more effective Lizard pose.
  • Rounding the back: It’s common to see beginners rounding the back toward the sky and dropping the head and neck toward the ground. This is incorrect and can lead to injury or discomfort, particularly through the upper back and neck. Instead, make sure you are keeping your back as flat as you can. Elongate your spine and engage your core. Keep your gaze forward to keep the back of the neck in line with the rest of the spine. 
Rounding the back
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The back should not be rounded but kept as flat as possible
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  • Front foot rolling onto the outer edge: Some beginners find the front foot wants to roll to the outer edge, lifting the arch away from the ground. If this is happening to you, actively anchor your foot to the ground by making sure the big toe, little toe and the heel are pressing down with even pressure. This secures the foot in a safe and stable way that protects the foot, ankle and knee during the pose.
  • Hips twisting out of alignment: Another common mistake is to twist the hips toward the back leg. This rotates the spine on its axis so that the shoulder and hips are facing in different directions. When this happens, you are not able to get the full expression of the stretching and strengthening benefits that this pose has to offer. You are also opening yourself up to possible injury or discomfort in your back and hips. In order to do the pose correctly, keep the hips and shoulders squared forward toward the short edge of your mat.
Hips twisting out of alignment
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hips and shoulders should be kept squared forward toward the short edge of your mat
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  • Front knee past ankle: Keep your front knee aligned over your front ankle to avoid putting your knee in a compromising position and straining the ligaments.
  • Stance too short: Beginners may not plant the front foot far enough forward. If the stance is too short, it can lead to rounding of the back and a compromising position for the front knee as mentioned above.
Stance too short
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Front knee past ankle
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Props and Modifications

Reason for modification—You should consider a modification if you experience the following:

  • Excessive tightness and limited flexibility in the hip flexors (front of thighs and lower abdomen) and groin
  • Discomfort in the knees
  • Overly tight glutes and limited range of motion in hips
  • Excessive back pain/discomfort or tension
  • Discomfort or restriction in the shoulders
Reasons for Modifications
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Reason for Modification
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Excessive tightness and limited flexibility in the hip flexors and groin: 

  • Try placing your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders, keeping your arms straight instead of lowering onto forearms. This will decrease the intensity of the stretch at the hip flexors and groin.
Excessive tightness and limited flexibility in the hip flexors and groin
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placing your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders
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  • Another alternative is to place your forearms on blocks. To do this, place each hand on a block at the beginning of the pose. The blocks would be directly under your shoulders, ensuring your hands remain in the correct alignment. You can adjust the height of the blocks to suit your particular needs. Using blocks in this way creates more height and allows you to lessen the intensity of the stretch while still achieving the benefits.
  • Alternatively, you can place both hands on the front thigh just above the knee. In this version, your torso would remain upright. This allows you to focus your attention on creating the flexibility in the hip flexors in front of the thighs and the lower portion of your torso. As your hip flexors begin to loosen up, you can then shift your focus more to lowering the torso closer to the ground.
Your torso remaining upright
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Discomfort in the knees:

  • If you’re experiencing discomfort in the front bent knee, make sure you are hugging it close to the body so that it stays in proper alignment.
  • If you’re experiencing discomfort in your back knee you can place a folded blanket or towel between your knee and the ground to provide some additional cushion.
  • You can also elevate your back knee off the ground. To do this, curl your back toes under, lifting your left knee off the ground and stacking your back heel over your toes. Extend through the back heel to elongate and activate the left leg. Lift the back of the left leg toward the sky to keep the leg fully engaged and active.
Elevating your back knee off the ground
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Overly tight and inflexible glutes and hips:

  • Try taking your front foot a little further out away from the body to create more space for the hips and glutes in this pose. Make sure to keep the knee over the foot to protect the knee and ankle.
Overly tight and inflexible glutes and hips
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taking your front foot a little further out away from the body to create more space for the hips and glutes in this pose
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  • You can also lower the back knee down onto a block or bolster to decrease the intensity of the stretch in the hips and glutes.
lowering the back knee down onto a block or bolster to decrease the intensity of the stretch in the hips and glutes
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Excessive back pain/discomfort or tension:

  • Place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders, keeping your arms straight instead of lowering onto forearms. This allows the back to remain more upright, making it easier to keep the proper alignment in the spine, and decreasing tension in the back.
  • Alternatively you can place your forearms on a couple of blocks.

Discomfort or restriction in the shoulders:

  • If the shoulders are feeling excessive tension or pinching, try resting your forearms on blocks to alleviate the strain of the spinal fold. This creates more space for the shoulders to open and relax.

Common questions:

  • When is Lizard Pose contraindicated?
  • Should I be rounding my back in Lizard?
  • What am I supposed to be doing with my front leg?
  • What if I can’t get my elbows to the ground?
  • Does the front foot have to be out 45 degrees or can it be pointed straight?
  • What part of the knee should you put your weight on? Should you try and aim for the area right above the knee/lower thigh? Or should the ball of the knee joint be down?
  • Are the back toes tucked in this pose?
  • Can you feel a stretch in the front groin or back thigh?

When is Lizard contraindicated?

  • Acute back injuries
  • Disc diseases and other spinal maladies
  • Acute injury to hips, knees, glutes or groin
  • Acute sciatica

Should I be rounding my back in Lizard?

  • No, the correct form is to get your back as flat as you can by lengthening your spine and engaging your core. If you cannot keep a flat back with the forearms on the ground, check out the modifications above to find safe variations for your individual body in Lizard.

What am I supposed to be doing with my front leg?

  • The heel of the front foot will be resting just outside your elbows. The toes will be angled out slightly away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Your knee will be stacked directly over your heel and will be hugging against your shoulder. Consistently press through the ground with your front foot and against your shoulder with your front knee.

What if I can’t get my elbows to the ground?

  • There are many ways to experience Lizard pose without getting your elbows all the way on the ground. See the section above to find a modification that suits your comfort level.

Does the front foot have to be out 45 degrees or can it be pointed straight?

  • The foot doesn’t have to be out 45 degrees; it can be pointed forward. Changing the position of the front foot simply changes where in the thighs you will feel the stretch and which particular muscles you are addressing. Having the foot straight forward will stretch your central quadriceps more directly. Having the foot at 45-degrees will put more focus on the medial (inner) quadriceps as well as the adductors (inner thigh muscles).

What part of the knee should you put your weight on? Should you try and aim for the area right above the knee/lower thigh? Or should the ball of the knee joint be down?

It is never a good idea to place the knee cap directly against the ground. You should always aim for the area just above the kneecap for safest practice.

Are the back toes tucked in this pose?

No. The back foot is resting flat on the top of the foot. The toes are lined up behind the heel.

Can you feel a stretch in the front groin or back thigh?

Where you feel the stretch will largely depend on where you are tight and where you are open in your body. It is most common to feel this stretch in the front of the thigh and the groin area, but some people may feel it in the back of the thigh, as well.

Additional Resources for beginners

Beginner Yoga Workouts

Yoga For Beginners Guide

Yoga For Back Pain

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