EXTENDED HAND TO BIG TOE – UTTHITA HASTA PADANGUSTASANA
One of the best poses, not only from my point of view!
Utthita (Extended) Hasta (Hand) Pada (Foot) Angusta (Big Toe) is a balancing pose that will let you develop your sense of balance while stretching and strengthening your body.
Of course, you need a good physical preparation and great focus: if you have solid bases, I’m sure you will enjoy the pose and the challenge I propose you!
- From Tadasana, focus and find your drishti: a still point to look at during your balancing pose.
As you inhale, bend your right leg bringing your knee to the chest. Grab your foot with your right hand in this way: pointer and middle finger must hook your big toe from the inner side, your thumb with lock it from the external part. In this way, it will be easy to hold your foot so that it doesn’t slip away.
- As you continue your inhale, extend your leg in front of you so that your right arm stretches too. Avoid the anteversion of your pubis: do not draw you sit bones down and forward. Try to keep them open, maintaining your sacrum and lower back vertical to the ground. Keep the left hand at your waist.
- Now, more expert or flexible practitioners will grab the right, lifted foot with both hands from underneath on an inhale. On the next exhale, they have the option to bring their chin at their shin. This can be difficult in that you might lose the focus on your drishti. Try to stay focused on the point and on your balance.
- In alternative to point 3, from the position described at point 2, you have the option of opening your leg out to your right side as you inhale and go on lengthening your spine. On the exhale, challenge yourself by shifting your gaze to your left. Focus on your balance and beware: in turning your head you will lose sight of your drishti. Look for a new still point to your left side.
Hold pose 2, 3 and/or 4 for five complete breathe cycles, and then go back to Tadasana passing through the position described at point 1. Repeat on the other side.
Once you have extended your right leg in front of you, you have the option of challenging yourself with an extra balancing and strength modification: detach your fingers from your right foot and try to balance holding your leg at the maximum height you can, without rotating your pubis down and forward (anteversion).
You might not feel ready for Utthita Hasta Padangustasana: no problem! Here’s some modifications for you!
- If you have trouble balancing, I suggest you to start next to a support which you can lean on with your free hand.
- If you are dealing with leg extension or hamstring shortness, first you need to acquire further flexibility: opt respectively for poses such as Low lunge to improve your leg opening and for Down Dog, Forward Fold and Standing Straddle Split to lengthen your back leg.
- To ease the asana, some teachers invite their students to place their lifted leg on a support such as a chair, but the exercise would miss its sense and reasons why. I’d rather suggest you to perform Hand to Big Toe keeping the raised leg bent and holding your knee instead.
- The final tip I give you to get super close to the traditional pose, is to bound your right (lifted) foot with a towel or strap from underneath, and make some pressure to lift it almost effortlessly as you raise the corresponding arm.
For any issue you might face, the best way to learn is laying down on the floor, removing the main difficulty: balancing!
BENEFITS AND SYMBOLIC MEANING
As mentioned, I love Utthita Hasta Padangustasana for the sensation of lengthening it provides in my legs, especially in the hamstrings.
At the same time, the pose helps strengthening ankles, calves, thighs, glutes and the core region.
Shifting from the physical to the mental level, the need of remaining focsued and of balancing helps creating a sensation of balance and tranquility in the mind, which turns into a reduction of stress, anxiety and symptoms of insomnia and depression.