When aiming to get into a “final” posture, always do “lead up” postures. These lead up postures help to activate, strengthen and stretch the muscles that are required for the final posture.
In this posture:
- Abs are stretched and strengthened – engaging our ab muscles helps to protect the lower back
- Quads are engaged
- Inner thighs are squeezed tight to keep legs firmly together
- Butt is squeezed
- Muscles in the lower back are toned
- Strength and mobility are increased in the spinal cord
- Your erector spinae, trapezuis and romboid muscles are contracted – allows you to achieve a satisfying expansion in the chest wall
- Deltoid and pectoralis muscles are used for arms to be in the raised position
- There is strong flexion in the hips to keep our legs high off the ground
Effective Lead Up Postures:
- Warm up and create some mobility in the spine with 10 rounds of Cat Cow posture
- Hip flexor exercises – Prasarita Padottanasana, Paschimottanasana
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana variations – help to train you for keeping your legs high in the final posture & also engages abs, quad and glutes
- Quad and butt engaging postures – Warriors, Chair Pose, Eagle etc.
- Cobra and Cobra variations i.e. hands clasped behind the back, legs off the ground
- Camel posture – getting used to dropping the head back, sticking the chest out, engaging the muscles in the upper and lower back, squeezing quads and glutes
- Purvattanasana – really good for getting used to dropping the head back, for chest opening, engagement of abs, butt and leg muscles
- Ab work to engage the core – Narvasana is very effective
- Wheel posture – great for engaging all the muscles required for the final posture – you can also use Bridge pose here if it is more suited to your practice
- Matsyasana – legs straight or in lotus position, if you like, elbows can remain on the ground – the below posture is the perfect transition pose from Matsyasana to Uttana Padasana
Note: Matsyasana is a great variation for those who are not yet ready for Uttana Padasana – you may decide to leave your legs and/or elbows on the ground for more support
Steps for getting into Uttana Padasana:
- Start lying on your back in a supine position – begin to bring awareness to your butt, abs, quads and ensure that they are engaged, heals and toes together, toes dorsi-flexed.
- Bring awareness to your breath, breathe deeply.
- Exhaling, push your chest out, roll shoulder heads down and back, squeeze shoulder blades together, raise your back off the ground, tilt your head back and lower the crown of the head to the ground.
- Your gazing point (Dristi) is at the tip of your nose.
- At this point, you are either leaning on your elbows or just your palms on the ground – stay here if this is enough for you.
- Lift one leg at a time, keep them straight, quads engaged, movement coming from the hip.
- When you are ready, squeeze your inner thighs tightly, engage the quads, keep toes planta flexed and lift both legs of the ground – keep legs straight. Just go to your half way point (around a 30deg. angle) and hold for a few deeps breaths. Slowly, with control lower your legs to the ground.
- Draw your attention back to your upper body – ensure you still have good form here: chest pushed up, shoulder blades squeezed together, shoulder heads rolling down and back, core is tight, no strain in the neck, a nice arch in the back.
- Bring your awareness back to your breath – ensure you are breathing deeply with an even inhale and exhale.
- Engaging your core, squeezing your leg muscles, exhale and left your legs as high as you can off the ground. Movement is from the hip joint and legs remain straight and strong. Stay here with elbows/palms planted on the ground, if this is enough for you.
- If you are feeling stable, slowly lift one arm at a time so that they are parallel to your legs, bring the palms of your hands together in prayer position.
- Hold here, breathing deeply for about half a minute.
Steps for safely getting out of Uttana Padasana:
- Lower one arm at a time down beside your body to create support.
- With control, lower your legs to the ground – keep your abs tight.
- Slowly start to tuck your chin by rolling on your head from crown, to the back of the head and so on.
- If you need, draw your knees into the chest and tuck your chin. Roll up and down a few times to release in the back and neck.
- To avoid dizziness and nausea in this posture, make a conscious effort to continuously breath deeply in and out. Use your Ujjayi breathing.
- If you have an injury or muscle pull in your lumbar spine, it is not advised that you try this posture.
- Best to avoid this posture with any kind of back injury or strain.
- There is high pressure and stretching in the lower abdomen – this must be kept in mind for those with C-section wounds or those with weak lower abs etc. – instead of lifting both legs, keep them on the ground or lift them alternately.
- When stretching your neck in this manner, it is important to keep your neck straight (face is directly forward) – do not attempt to turn your head to the left or the right.
- With a posture like this, always listen to your body and take the level that suits you. Only when you feel completely stable, should you move onto the next step.