February Pose of the Month
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana - Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose
Utthita (Extended) - Hasta (Hand) - Pada (Foot) - Angustha (Big Toe) - Asana (Pose)
Level 1 - Beginners to Intermediate
We've been busy working on strengthening the legs and the rotational spinal muscles in January and we're going to build on that strength in February with Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana requires quietening and steadying the mind so you can balance on one leg while remaining skillful and mindful in your pose.
This pose requires hamstring flexibility, although not essential, as always bending the lifted leg is an option or the use of a belt, so try not to run away if you have tight hamstrings! It will help you to lengthen and open the back of the legs. On the flip side the quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the thigh) have to work hard to help keep the leg lifted and to ensure that the leg is not pulling the arm, shoulder and chest forward.
It also requires external rotation of the hips, and a Tadasana (Mountain Pose) like spine, so integrating the core and being mindful that your front ribs are drawing down towards your navel, as you are lengthening upwards in the spine, is more important than having a straight lifted leg.
There are so many ways to cheat in this pose for example rounding the spine makes it easier to reach the toes and straighten the leg, your hips can hike up or swing out to the side to name some of the common misalignment's in Standing hand to big toe pose but with all of these "cheats" you lose the strength and integrity of the pose. Our bodies like to find the path of least resistance and our minds plays along with this because we feel like we're going further in the pose but this isn't the case. So one of the most challenging things about this pose isn't the balance although this is a factor, the biggest challenge is reigning in our ego, and being willing to pull back when needed.
ENERGETIC AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS
Improves sense of balance
Improves concentration and focus
Strengthens the foot and ankles
Stretches the hamstrings
Opens the hips, shoulders and arms
Strengthens the abdominal muscles
Balances the nervous system
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Recent Ankle or shoulder injury
HINTS AND TIPS
If hamstrings are too tight to straighten the lifted leg, you can bend the lifted knee and stand tall, hugging the outer hips in.
If you're hamstrings are just a little tight or if its difficult keep the chest lifted and the shoulder blades secured to the back ribs you use a belt and again focus on the Tadasana Spine and avoiding hiking the hips out to the side
Try and keep your dristi (eye gaze) steady and on one spot.
Focus on lengthening and rising upwards on the inhale and maintaining that length on the exhale as push the floor away with your standing leg.
Yogi Toe Lock
Index and middle fingers wrap around the inside of the big toe