Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Utthita hasta padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe pose) involves three main parts:
- Intensely stretching the gesture leg
- Extending the back to maintain the body erect
- Contract the arm muscles to lift the foot.

Preparing for the pose
This pose requires open hip flexors (for the standing leg), open hip adductors and extensors and internal rotators (for the gesture leg) and open shoulder retractors, chest and neck. To prepare for the pose, you can do the following poses:
- Supta padangusthasana (Reclining hand to big toe pose)
- Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended side angle pose)
- Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle pose)
- Vriksasana (Tree Pose)

Contra-indications
This pose is not for those who have a recent or chronic injury to the knees, legs, arms or shoulders.

Getting into the pose
1) Activate the quadriceps to straighten the knee of the standing leg. The tensor fascia lata runs along the side of the leg and works with the quadriceps in extending the knee while stabilizing it. Avoid hyperextension of the knee.
2) Hold the bent knee of the lifted leg in the air to “train” the psoas to contract in this pose. Use the psoas to lift the leg. The key to success in this posture is actively flexing the hip of the lifted leg. The tendency is to use the hand and arm to lift the foot.
3) Activate the quadriceps to straighten the knee. The sartorius synergizes this action.
4) Now use the arm to lift the leg higher. Contract the upper sternoclavicular region (the area where the breastbone connects to the collarbone) of the pectoralis major and the anterior deltoid to lift the arm. To get a feel for engaging these muscles, press the palm of the hand against a wall and attempt to scrub it up toward the ceiling. Then return to the pose. Bend the elbow by activating the biceps and brachialis muscles. These actions raise the leg and increase the stretch of the gluteus maximus., hamstrings, and gastrocnemius.
5) The standing leg, pelvis and torso should all remain in tadasana. Ensure that the raising of one leg does not change the tadasana alignment in the rest of the body, particularly in the pelvis and hips. This means that if the hip of the lifted leg is no longer in alignment with the opposite hip, you have lost alignment and should ease back in the pose until your hips are even and square.
6) There is a tendency to lean forward in this pose due to the pull of the raised-leg hamstrings and gluteus maximus. You can correct this by arching the lumbar to activate the erector spinae and by engaging the standing-leg buttocks, and lower back muscles.

Counterposes
- Tadasana (Mountain pose)
- Garudasana (Eagle pose)
- Balasana (Child’s pose)
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Dog)

References:
1) Mark Stephens (2012). Yoga Sequencing. US: North Atlantic Books.
2) http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/2473

Submitted by:
Megan Lim
(200 hr weekend Jan-May 2014)