Sometimes we must abandon everything we know about a particular asana to be open to exploring all aspects of the shape. When I work with clients in Madukasana (Frog), It’s my job to not only teach them the very best safest version, but to also help them understand why this version of Mandukasana is safest for their knees, back and hips.
For a true frog to jump the lengths that it does, it uses it’s legs like springs. You can check out this movement phenomenon here: http://youtu.be/yKpJElwama8. The frog must push the hips back to bring the gluteals to maximum stretch, knees flexed for maximum quadriceps stretch and ankles flexed for maximum stretch to the achilles to load the tendon mechanism for maximum flight at take off. Think of Mandukasana as the moment before take off, rather than a collapsed, lifeless frog.
￼Mandukasana is a deep stretch for the short adductors of the groins/hips (inner hip musculature) and although it is not considered a beginning posture, It can be accessed by all levels of students provided there is adequate warm up and use of props. It is used to create more free space in the hip joints and in this way can be helpful in lower back and knee problems where lack of hip mobility is primary. It can also be used to isolate and strengthen the hard to locate and difficult to strengthen internal rotators of the hips. It is therapeutic for all the abdominal organs and particularly for the pancreas. It is also useful for relieving menstrual cramps. It can be extremely helpful for those suffering from sciatica caused by a tight piriformis. Use caution in Mandukasana in the case of new knee, hip, back or ankle surgery. If the ankle has been fused (triple arthrodesis), you will need to prop the ankle as there won’t be enough dorsiflexion for the foot to come against the wall. A small towel roll is useful for this.
Secret #1: Center Yourself
As with any Yoga Practice, begin with your opening centering and breath work (pranayama). Take this opening work in supported Supta Bhadda Konasana to allow the psoas and groins to soften and let go. In this way you will have a more lasting benefit to the therapeutic posture.
Secret #2: Warm up your hips!
Pick and choose your favorites, but you can use any combination of seated hip circles, hips circles on hands and knees, crawling twist and move gently into kryas (movement flows) that further soften and open the hips like this knee down lunge krya.
Pause between sides in wide leg supported Balasana (Child’s Pose) to feel how you are progressing.
Secret #3: Find a clear wall
Prepare for Mandukasana by folding a blanket or mat to protect your knees and placing
that close to ￼the wall.
Place the bottom of the feet against the wall knees COMFORTABLY wide (remember you will be exploring here awhile).
If your ankles are tight and the feet have a hard time against the wall support them in as much flex as you have available to you. Remember no frog ever jumped with their feet pointed under them. You need the leverage of the wall.
Secret #4: Hips Back!
Soften the groins so the hips empty toward the wall a bit. Think frog about to jump.
Having the hips too far forward can cause the lower back to collapse and put unnecessary strain on the shoulders and low back. In the image below, my hips are too far forward, the knees should come instead to a 90 degree bend, and the low back should not collapse.
Here’s another common mistake: A collapsed frog cannot jump.
Here’s one more common error in Mandukasana: This is a common error when the arms are weak. My elbows are locked in hyperextension and this will bring tension into the neck and shoulders. The lower back is also collapsed here resulting in compression rather than space.
Secret #5: Pull the ribs slightly forward to create space!
Engage enough in the scapular stabilizers! It’s as if you are gently pulling the lower ribs to the wall in front of you. You will be on your elbows. Keep the hips back and the ribs forward so you can fill the space created with breath and Miniature Schnauzer love.
Secret #6: Go exploring!
Notice what it may feel like to isometrically contract the adductors by gently squeezing the knees towards each other in the posture. Now try pulling them apart isometrically (no movement). Stay with what feels better.
On your next inhale, try lifting one ankle off the ground (keep the knee down). Exhale to lower. This will inform you of the strength of your hip internal rotators. Do the same on the other side. Notice any differences. If you can do that without pain, try lifting both ankles (keep the hips back, groins soft). In the image below, I am lifting my left foot only.
To come out: You never want to pop out of Mandukasana too quickly. Take your time! Bring the big toes to touch first and then walk your hands back toward the hips. Take some hip circles on hands and knees or easy windshield wiper legs after Mandukasana.
Balasana (Child’s Pose) knees together
Udarakarshanasana (knee down twist)
Be sure to give yourself a good long hug and an even longer Shavasana to integrate the work done in Mandukasana. executed mindfully, Mandukasana will leave you with spacious hips rather than back pain.