HOW TO PRACTICE Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose IN YOGA (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose
Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose (Sanskrit name: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) is a challenging balance yoga pose that takes considerable focus, strength, flexibility, and stamina. Just look at the elements: A one-legged balance in which the non-weight-bearing leg is held aloft. Adding a forward fold of the torso, as many yogis opt to do, adds even more interest and proprioceptive engagement.
In addition to strength in the standing leg, a stable pelvis and strong core, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana summons subtle awareness, and sensitivity to minute shifts of weight.
Maintaining balance in this yoga pose can be a challenge, but the effort is worth it! Fortunately, there are lots of ways to train your body to practice this posture, aided by a wall or chair for stability, and possibly employing a strap to connect hand to foot.
The lessons in more challenging balance yoga poses such as Hand-to-Toe Pose are easily applicable to life off the mat. And this is really the point of having a yoga practice in the first place: To shine light on our growth opportunities. Whether you struggle with patience or have a tendency to listen to a harsh inner voice, this asana can illuminate ways in which you approach your yoga practice.
Observe your thoughts and inner landscape as you practice this yoga pose. What words do you use to describe your progress in achieving balance? Can you allow yourself to be imperfect? Can you fall out of the yoga posture and come back into it with a spirit of lightness and curiosity?
Listening to and adjusting your inner dialogue can powerfully transform your ability to live more harmoniously with yourself, leading to more acceptance of the human imperfections that make life interesting. Learning to get out of your own way can also lead to more success, both in the studio and in real life.
Benefits of Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose
As a rule, standing balance yoga poses strengthen the feet, ankles, thighs, and hips. Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana also stretches the adductor muscles of the inner thigh, as well as the hamstrings and calves of the extended leg. The strengthening effects of the asana also include core support, engagement of the spinal erectors, and neutral alignment between pelvic and shoulder girdles required to maintain the yoga posture. With one leg extended away from the body’s center, this asymmetrical yoga balance also provides a proprioceptive challenge and requires a rebalancing of the body’s base of support.
Due to the potential consequence of losing focus while standing on one leg, standing yoga balance poses can be an excellent way to bring you into the present moment and clear your head of any extraneous mental chatter. This allows you to more fully focus on the task at hand: remaining upright!
Spending a few breath cycles in Extended Hand-To-Toe pose can provide a refreshing break that energizes both body and mind, provided that you remember to keep breathing. Achieving balance on one leg can also be a grounding experience.
Basic Extended Hand-to-Toe Pose
- Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) on a nonskid yoga mat. Start by establishing a strong foundation, feeling all four corners of your feet pressing into the ground.
- From Tadasana, shift your weight onto your left leg. Bend your right knee and lift your right thigh to approximately a 90-degree angle at your hip. Draw your leg only as close as you can maintain axial extension, with your spine resting in its natural curves.
- Interlace your fingers around your shin to hold your knee in place. If you start to feel your tailbone tucking under, move your thigh further from your chest.
- Draw the outside of your left hip down toward your right heel, so that the hip of your standing leg draws inward, toward the midline of your body.
- Stay grounded as you hook your first two fingers around the big toe of your right foot. (Alternatively, you can place a strap around the ball of your foot and hold both ends of the strap in your right hand.)
- Gradually begin extending your leg out in front of you. Make sure to keep your spine long and upright as you do this. If you feel the spine beginning to round, bend the knee a bit more until your spine can again be upright. (Using a strap to connect your hand with your foot can allow you to straighten your knee while keeping your spine extended.)
- Ground down through your standing leg as you rise up through your spine and the top of your head. You can leave your left hand on your hip, or extend your left arm out to the side to help you balance.
- Hold the pose for several breaths. Practice calm, steady breathing while holding your balance.
- To come out of the yoga pose, gently release your foot and lower your leg slowly back to the ground. Stand in Tadasana and feel the effects of the asana.
- Then shift your weight onto your right leg and repeat on the second side.