Utthita Hasta Padungusthasana

One of the yoga asanas that I find rather intriguing and complex is Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. While my past ballet training often required us to perform similar stretches that involve lifting one leg off the ground, my focus during dance training was more often on the aesthetics of having my leg held high and close to the face. Proper alignment of the hips were often neglected to bring the leg higher. As such, I realized that till today, doing such postures with correct alignment still remains very challenging for me.

Literally meaning ‘Extended hand-toe pose’, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana entails having flexible hamstrings, open hips and having strength and flexibility in the feet and ankles for balance.

Benefits of the pose:

  • Lengthening the hamstring of the extended leg
  • Stabilizing the hip joint of the standing leg (the gluteus medius and minimus, piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus undergo eccentric contraction to keep the pelvis level)
  • Improving single leg balance and stability
  • Strengthening ankle, knee, hip and shoulder joints

Skeletal Joint Actions in Utthita Hasta Paschimottanasana

Spine
  • Neutral spin
  • Pelvis leveled
Upper limbs

(Lifted arm)

  • Shoulder flexion
  •  Elbow extension
  • Finger flexion
Lower limbs

(Standing leg)

  • Neutral hip extension
  • Neutral knee extension
Lower Limbs

(Lifted leg)

  • Hip flexion
  • Neutral knee extension
  • Neutral ankle dorsiflexion

Muscular Joint Actions (information from doctorlib.info)

Upper limbs (lifted arm) Concentric contraction to stabilize and flex shoulder joint
  • Rotator cuff muscles
  • Coracobrachialis
  • Pectoralis minor
  • Anterior deltoid
  • Biceps Brachii
Lower limbs

(standing leg)

 

Concentric contraction to keep knee in neutral extension and balance on single leg
  • Articularis genu (muscle right above knee joint)
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot and lower leg
Eccentric contraction to allow lateral
  • Gluteus medius and minimus
  • Piriformis
  • Superior and inferior gemellus
  • Tensor Fasciae latae
Lower Limbs

(standing leg)

 

Concentric contraction to flex hips and slightly adduct leg towards midline
  • Psoas major
  • Illiacus
  • Rectus femoris
  • Pectineus
  • Adductor brevis and longus
Passively lengthening
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus

 

After understanding the muscular anatomy of this asana, I now understand that my previous practice has not prepared me in utilizing my deeper gluteus muscles in stabilizing and leveling my pelvis. Other common problems faced when performing Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana include:

  1. Hiking up of the hip of the lifted leg
  2. Spinal flexion as a result of tightness in the hamstrings and gluteus maximus or hamstrings. In such cases, it is better to keep the knees bent
  3. Using the quadratus lumborum to help with lifting the leg due to weakness in hip flexors

While much emphasis is placed on increasing flexibility of the hamstrings in the lifted leg, we should also not forget that developing the strength in both the lifted and standing leg is equally important for proper alignment!

 

Resources:

https://beyogi.com/learn-yoga/poses/extended-hand-big-toe-pose/

https://doctorlib.info/anatomy/yoga-anatomy/7.html

https://www.yoganatomy.com/utthita-hasta-padangusthasana/