Stiff yoga guide: Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana

I’m just generally roping these next three poses under the “UHP” banner. I realize Utthita Parshvasahita is in here, plus UHP B.


I’m not here to sweat the small stuff.

Or maybe I am.

As a reminder, these stiff yoga guides are based around a now more than month-long return to basics approach to Ashtanga, with a focus on trying to emphasize both the stretches in the pose and the correct alignment, rather than moving more fully into the poses. My intent here is to pass on those unusual adjustments I’m making in case they are useful for anyone else just starting, trying to help someone who is starting or … plagued with stiffness.

With UHP, those unusual adjustments begin with a strap.

I know. Another bad man moment. But what can you do?

I’ve had senior teachers not worry about the lifted legs being straight in these poses; you grab the toe and go. One, at least, noted that you get the straight leg in B.

There are any number of modifications here. One can grab the knee of the lifted leg and keep the leg bent, so your calf and foot hang down. (Some people have argued to me that this way of doing it is in some ways harder.)

Right now, though, it’s strap time for me. I’ve actually been using a Yogahitch (not to promote them, but that’s what I’m using). And a trick is to get the strap firmly tucked into the arch of the foot so you have good resistance as you balance/pull/stretch that lifted leg as well as some freedom of movement of the foot.

You know what’s coming next: balance. There is a decidedly different dynamic to balancing while you’ve got a firm hold on your toe versus having a bit of distance between your hand and foot. It’s always been a feeling I’ve disliked, but I’m learning to deal with it. Once I go back to hand-to-toe we’ll see if carried any benefits.

I’m also assuming you realize that the Yogahitch is involved in order to keep that lifted leg straight the whole time.

Otherwise, I’m pretty traditional in this pose regarding dristi, hand on waist, etc. (During this return to basics process, I’ve discovered how much the hand on the waist brings your focus on Uddiyana Bandha. That might be something else worth more exploration.) The one exception to the traditions is with B: Rather than looking at my toe, I’m looking where I hope my toe eventually to be (i.e. higher).

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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