Utthita Hasta Padangustasana

Pronounced: utt-HEE-tuh AH-stuh PAH-DAHN-goo-St-HAH-suh-nuh

This pose is a powerful one, and one I always anticipate when doing the primary series.  It’s the first posture that requires 3 things of the body; strength, flexibility, and balance.  It’s the pose that distinguishes the regular practitioners and the casual student.  It tests your will, a way to triumph over the current circumstances of your body and life.  When one can do this pose well, there’s a real feeling of “I can do anything”.  It is a practice of discipline, like many of the most beneficial yogic practices are. The purpose of which is to train the monkey mind and help us attain moksha – liberation from suffering.    

Utthita Hasta Padangustasana comes from the following sanskrit words: 

  • Utthita meaning extended
  • Hasta meaning hand
  • Pada meaning foot
  • Angusta meaning big toe
  • Asana meaning posture  

The full English name of the pose is Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose and it has 4 distinct parts, A, B, C, and D, all performed in order without dropping the lifted leg. It requires stabilising and balancing on the standing leg through all four parts, while keeping the lifted leg flexed with the knee extended (if possible).   

The standing leg 

The standing leg requires first rooting the foot firmly into the floor and distributing the weight of the body evenly across the ball of the foot and heel.  To create balance, contract the gluteus maximus and the quadriceps femoris (muscles above the knee) while straightening the knee joint. 

The lifted leg 

When first starting out, expect to wobble and have to drop the lifted leg. To practice balance, start with Vrikshasana (Tree Pose).  With the leg lifted, many muscles are engaged including the core muscles (transverse abdominus), the hip flexors (Iliopsoas muscles), anterior leg muscles (Quadriceps) are contracted and the posterior leg muscles (hamstrings) are stretched.  

Instructions

Part A

  1.  Stand at front of the mat in Tadasana.
  2.  Shift weight to left leg. Exhale, bend right knee to chest and catch big toe with index and middle fingers of right hand. Place left hand on left hip. 
  3. Distribute weight evenly across ball of the standing leg foot and heel.  Straighten standing leg, engage the muscles above knee (the quadriceps), firm the outer hip, engage gluteus maximus.
  4. Inhale, straighten lifted leg while bending right elbow. Engage quadriceps of lifted leg, dorsiflex the foot, slight internal rotation of the femur of lifted leg. 
  5. Hold 5 deep breaths.  Lift the sternum while gazing forward. Drishti is nose tip. 

Part A

 

Part B

  1. From part A, Inhale, extend the right leg to the right side of the room. Straighten leg if possible (see variations)
  2. Drishti is corner of the left eye while looking to the side of the room
  3. Hold 5 deep breaths

 

Part B

 

Part C

  1. From part B, Exhale, bring the right leg back to centre. Grab the right leg or foot with both hands and pull the leg towards the sternum.
  2. Hold 5 deep breaths. Drishti is toes.

Part C

 

Part D

  1. Exhale, release the leg from C, keep the leg lifted and knee extended with hands on hips.  
  2. Engage core and slight engagement of Uddiyana bandha, point the toes. Raise the sternum. Lift the foot higher.
  3. Hold 5 deep breaths. Drishti is toes.

Part D

 

Variations 

Use a strap on the lifted leg, or keep the lifted leg knee bent through the pose.  Alternate version is to hold the knee instead of the toes.

Variations of Part A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations of Part B

Bandhas

Mula bandha (slight engagement)

Benefits

  • Strengthens and stretches legs and ankles
  • Strengthens core muscles
  • Improves balance and posture
  • Stretches arm muscles, adductors, and hips
  • Improves concentration and focus

Enjoy your practice!!

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