The deer pose is most commonly practiced in Yin yoga, which emphasizes slow movement and holding a pose for a long period of time. While the Ashtanga Vinyasa school is more dynamic and encourages rapid movements, Yin is the complete opposite. This is often restorative and can be practiced by even those with limited flexibility.
If you are looking for an easy hip opener that can be practiced by causing minimal strain to the body, then here is a detailed look into the pose, its many benefits, and how can deepen your pose with variations:
The Basics of Deer Pose:
This pose is known as ‘Mrigasana’ in Sanskrit and is part of the modifications made to the list of yoga poses described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita. It is a beginner-friendly hip opener and is ideal for those who are recovering from injury or stiffness and need to be gentle on their body.
It can be modified in many different ways depending on your level of comfort and flexibility. The deer pose can be practiced as a counterpose to poses such as the bow, or lord of the dance pose where the leg is only stretched backward.
The Benefits of Deer Pose:
This is an excellent and balanced posture to rotate the hips and cause movement in the hip joints. This can be therapeutic for those suffering from irregularities such as high blood pressure and asthma.
The deer pose massages the abdominal and reproductive organs and can help alleviate menstrual cramps and symptoms of menopause. You can practice this up to the second trimester of your pregnancy to reduce swelling in the legs.
It improves digestion and can help with constipation and gas relief.
How To Practice Deer Pose:
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and place the shin parallel to the perinium.
- Fold your left knee and swing your leg back behind you, bringing the foot behind your hip.
- Position your front leg by moving the foot away from you.
- Try to make a ninety-degree angle with your front knee.
- Move the back foot away from the hip till you start to feel like the pressure is shifting away from the foot.
- Keep your perineum and both legs firmly grounded to the floor.
- Gently release the pose and repeat with the other leg.
- Once you have finished your practice, relax in child’s pose or corpse pose to unwind.
Common Mistakes During Practice:
You must move your legs away from the hips and place them firmly on the ground to be able to enjoy the benefits of the pose. If you tilt too much the hip will rise from the floor. This should be avoided.
Another common mistake practitioners often make is not practicing a warm-up pose such as the butterfly or the half-butterfly. This will help you stretch easily and be more comfortable when you are practicing the deer pose.
When coming out of the pose, be very gentle. Lean away from the back foot and bring the leg forward. You are now ready to alternate the legs for the next round. Once you have finished your practice, stretch your legs out in front of you and remain in the position for a minute to recover.
Beginner’s Tips for Practicing Deer Pose:
If you are struggling to get into this position, then you can attempt it by breaking it down into two parts. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Once you feel grounded, leave one leg of the floor and bend your knees and place the other on your buttocks. Stay in this position for a short period of time till you start to feel comfortable. Now gently, move the other leg back and come into the deer pose.
Those who have trouble sitting comfortably on the ground may place a folded blanket or cushions under the perineum or the knees, depending on their area of discomfort. This will help you concentrate and hold the pose for a much longer period of time.
Cautions And Contraindications:
You should not practice this pose if you have knee injuries since both knees rest on the ground during the final position. It is also not advisable for those with hip injuries for the same reason.
While it is recommended to hold the position up to a minute for beginners, shorten the duration if you are not feeling comfortable to prevent injury.
Those with severe back injuries or lower back problems including sciatica, slipped disc, and hernia should not practice this pose as it may cause injury.
Variations of the Deer Pose:
When you practice this pose, there is a tendency of the body to tilt away from the internally rotating hip of the back leg. To ensure that both bones are firmly rooted to the ground, you can move your feet more inwards and towards the core of your body.
If you are able to practice this pose with ease and need a more intermediate variation, then you can move your feet away from your hips and this will give your body a much deeper stretch. But be mindful of resting both legs firmly on the ground and not letting your hips tilt or raise up from the ground.
For a side stretch, you can twist around towards your back foot by rotating to your opposite side. You can also rest your elbow here and try to touch the ground with your forehead. However, make sure that you do not strain yourself. When coming out of the pose, gently raise your trunk and then come back to the starting position slowly.