Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana is a challenging sequence of standing balancing asanas and the apex of the arc of the standing sequence of Ashtanga yoga.
Only when your consciousness is totally focused on the moment you are in can you receive whatever gift, lesson, or delight that moment has to offer. – Barbara De Angelis
Like any yoga asana or pose and for any beginner it is important to know the limits of your own body.
- 1. Make sure that your yoga area is free of obstructions. This asana is relatively difficult for those of us who are balanced-challenged
- 2. Stand up with your feet together. Breathe in. Relax all your muscles. Breathe out.
- 3. Gently focus your gaze on a point in front of you.
- 4. Bend your right knee and try to bring your thigh as close to your body as possible. Exhale.
- 5. Place your right arm on the outside of your bent leg and grab your big toe. Inhale.
- 6. Exhale as your straighten your leg in front of you. Raise your left arm to balance yourself. You may not be able to fully extend your leg at first (i.e., your knee may not want to unbend fully). Don’t worry, that’s normal. Keep practicing and your flexibility will improve.
- 7. Breathe in and breathe out as you try to raise your extended leg a little higher.
- 8. Breathe in and breathe out for up to a minute in the final position. Don’t worry if you only last a few seconds. You can also repeat 3 to 5 times to improve your form and flexibility if you were unable to keep the pose for a minute.
- 9. Repeat with the other leg.
If you can’t hold on to your toe with your knee straight in utthita hasta padangusthasana (one hand big toe pose) then bend your knee and hold on to it instead.
Another option is to wrap a towel around your foot and use both hands to hold on to the towel.
This pose could be thought of as a standing hamstring stretch for the lifted leg. So that you can stretch the hamstring focus on relaxing it.
You can also work on using the strength of your arm (and or the hip flexors).
If the problem is lack of grip then grab on to the side of the foot instead. It’s no longer “big toe pose” but then again, neither is it if you are using a towel!
Names aside, if your hamstrings lack flexibility, try not to compensate by rounding your spine.
Use a towel or bend your knee so that you can keep your spine straight while doing this one legged series of balance poses.
You can then use your arms to pull on your leg without compromising your lower back.
- Making your Standing Leg Stable
To work on your standing leg stability, practice first with the foot turned out slightly and the standing knee slightly bent. Try squeezing the outer thigh and hip and the inner thigh. Also try squeezing the hamstring.
Practice this first with your lifted knee bent, and then with it straight (or only slightly bent). Hold for only a breath or two then switch legs.
Next, as your leg stability improves, work towards doing it with a straight knee and your foot facing forwards.
- Supporting Your Lifted Leg
One way to work towards the flexibility required in this pose is to rest your foot on a table, book shelf, low wall or even a tree limb.
Keep your standing leg and spine stable and focus on relaxing your hamstring so that you can then position your leg on something higher.
- Balancing on One Foot
If your problem is balance, work on keeping your balance by using your standing foot to feel where your center of gravity is.
Work at keeping your center of gravity centered between the outside and inside edges of your standing foot. Also position your center of gravity forwards enough that your toes naturally press down. You can then use your toes to help keep your center stable. If your sensitivity is good, you can practice balancing without the use of your toes. In this case try shifting your weight onto your heel and keep it there. Relax your toes.
To practice stabilizing your body, start by activating the feet and ankle of your standing leg. Make both strong and rigid. Then activate the muscles of your lower leg. Hug the bones with the muscles housed in the lower leg.
Do the same with your knee joint.
Stabilize the hip of your standing leg by sucking the thigh bone of that leg into its hip socket. From there stabilize your mid section, spine, ribcage and shoulder of the arm supporting your leg.
If using the towel option and both arms then stabilze both shoulders. To stabilize your shoulders pull your shoulders towards their respective elbows.
- Lifted Leg
With respect to the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana lifted leg, you can focus on relaxing the back of the thigh so that you can lift the leg higher.
Or you can try activating the back of the thigh by pulling your leg down while at the same time using your hand to pull up.
Another option is to focus on reaching the leg out of the hip. Make your leg feel long. And at the same time pull up with the arm or pull up and back.
Experiment with these variations whether the leg is to the front or the side.
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana Variations
In the Ashtanga Yoga Standing Sequence, the first two variations of this pose are with the hand grabbing the big toe first with your leg to the front and then open your lifted leg to the side.
When moving the leg to the side, try externally rotating the leg so that the knee points slightly rearwards.
Then move your leg to the front again, bend forward once and kiss your knee and then lift your torso, release your hand and hold your leg out to the front.
Hold each position for 5 breaths.
Do the right leg first (stand on your left foot) and then the left leg.
- Keeping the Leg Up In Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
Especially when holding your leg out to the front without using your hand, you may find this a lot easier to do if you bend your standing leg.
This gives you more room to stabilize your pelvis with the muscles of your standing leg.
From there it is then easier to engage your abs to unify your ribage and pelvis. You then have a more stable base for reaching your leg to the front.
Also, because this can be hard to learn on the fly, especially after having done the hand grabbing variations, you might try resting after the first two variations, then go into the third variation with fresh legs.
You may find that you learn it faster and can then transition into it without resting.
Another option for this third utthita hasta padangusthasana position is to practice first with your lifted knee bent. Because this is easier, work up to holding for ten slow breaths. Then work at slowly (over the course of several practices) making your knee straighter.
The alternative is to practice suffering the pain of trying the full pose straight away.
- The asana improves flexibility as you stretch from head to toe, even giving your spine a good stretch.
- This asana is known to regulate blood pressure and anxiety while calming the person down.
- Stretching in this pose increases the blood flow to the brain, improving the concentration and retention power. This enables you to work better and more efficiently.
- As this pose helps you stretch your thigh muscles, hamstrings, calf muscles along with the back, lower back and your arms, it helps all muscles burn fat while increasing their density with the inhaling and exhaling.
- This exercise even relieves you of that bloated feelings and any excess gas you may have trapped inside.
- If women are trying to conceive, this pose is a good one as it stretches all muscles.
- This pose also helps with the incidence of flat feet. It is also important that your muscles feel stretched but not worn.
- This pose helps tired muscles to feel rejuvenated.
- It helps in massaging your liver and spleen.
- It also strengthens the knees.
- Like most poses in yoga, this asana too aims to balance the body and mind.
- It is used to cure and remedy problems like high blood pressure or hypertension. This pose is great to strengthen your legs and make your spine stronger.
- This pose is recommended also for people who may have a potential of or suffer from osteoporosis. It is a pose that will even strengthen your bones.
- This pose is also known to relieve headaches and insomnia.
- It improves memory, focus & concentration
Do not practice this pose with hip problem or sciatica; ankle, knees or neck.
Hope you enjoyed!
See you tomorrow!!