Pose of the Month: Hand to Big Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose or Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana pose is physically about balance, flexibility, and stretching the hamstrings and hips. It also strengthens the back and arms as we expand and open through our chest. With a focus inwards; this pose is about flexibility of the mind and strength of the spirit. Often in a standing balance pose as dynamic as Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose we may automatically become critical of ourselves in one moment. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it reminds us that we have a choice to settle our thoughts with intentional breath, paving the way for us to arrive fully in the present moment. Yoga also gives us the tools to practice Ahimsya, or non-violence. In this particular situation non-violence refers to the restraint to react judgmentally or harshly towards ourselves while practicing Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Poses or Asanas, in yoga are here to challenge the practice of Ahymsa, helping us to move forward and away from the negative self-talk. When we embody the idea of non-violence towards ourselves, the hard part of pose begins to diminish. The execution of the pose is no longer front and center. Instead we greet the challenge of Hand to Big Toe Pose with a smile and we obtain the benefits physically while simultaneously nourishing our inner spirit.
The following step by step instructions will lead you to safely practice Utthita Hasta Padanghustasana. By participating in Ahimsya, staying focused on the unapologetic practice of accepting yourself fully in the present moment will stimulate the enjoyment of asana for years to come.
- Engage your drishti or focus point by softening the windows of the eyes, let your gaze relax as you keep it stilled at eye level. Root down through your left foot by pressing all four corners of your foot into the Earth, resulting in the arch of the foot to lift to help engage the quadriceps of your thigh.
- On an inhale pull your right knee in towards your chest still engaging through the left foot. The right hip has a tendency to raise s0 draw it back down to even the hips. This will help stabilize the physical component of balance in this pose. Focus inwards and release judgment and instead participate in the present experience of accepting yourself, to encourage the inner strength component of balance
- Without shifting your gaze, exhale as your right fingertips follow your inner right thigh towards the toes finally allowing the peace fingers to grasp around the big toe. Optional variation might include reaching the right hand around the outside of the right foot.
- Ground down through the left foot for a few breaths, while connecting back to your softened gaze and strong stable leg.
- With an inhale, extend right leg focusing on elongating the back and expanding through the upper chest, opening the heart. In this space we can feel the rooting of the femur bone in the hip socket and the power of the straightened leg that helps maintain the stability of the pose.
- When you’re ready begin to send the right extended leg out to the right, again focusing on keeping length through your spine and the openness of the shoulders. Extend the heel while drawing the right toes towards your face. Left arm can come to the hip or can extend to the left. Use conscious breath and steady your gaze to help maintain balance.
- Repeat other side.
- MODIFCATION: One modification is to keep the knee bent at a 90 degree angle without fully extending your leg if your hamstrings are tight. The second is using a strap and looping it around your foot to feel the hamstring stretch, but still maintaining the length in the spine and openness in the chest.
Be kind, gentle and loving to yourself. In those moments you will never cease to amaze yourself. Come practice on your mat with your Full Circle Community with big toe in one hand and a smile on your face.