Today's Daily Tip
For Beginners: Urdhva Hastasana
For many of us, Urdhva Hastasana is a pose we practice a variation of unconsciously every morning: We roll out of bed, stand up—eyes half open, yawning—raise the arms, arch the spine, and take the head back. It is an intuitive movement that helps get energy moving after a night's sleep. When we encounter this pose for the first time in a yoga class, we often take it for granted. Why waste time practicing a pose we feel "good" at when there are many more poses to conquer?
There is a natural tendency for beginners to feel a sense of accomplishment and take pride in asanas that seem easy, especially when others present more obvious challenges. Unfortunately, these feelings can become obstructions for connecting with the more subtle qualities of a posture. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hand Pose) has within it the seeds of more advanced poses like arm balances and backbends. And by mastering the intelligence of a simple pose like Urdhva Hastasana, you can gain the power and confidence to move deeper into your practice.
Entering the Pose
Like most asanas, the principles of movement in Urdhva Hastasana break into three parts: entering the pose, being in the pose, and exiting the pose. Whether you are practicing it individually or as part of a flow series, the pose should be executed with these principles in mind.
It is helpful to begin with the understanding of where movement in a pose comes from. There is a very basic principle in physics which you have probably heard since you were in grade school: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In yogic terms, this concept applies directly to the movement of subtle energy in the body. If you want something to go up, connect with the energy that is going down.
To begin Urdhva Hastasana, stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Feel the soles of your feet softening into the floor and the firmness of the floor supporting your weight evenly across each foot. This is your ground. Notice that there is a natural lift that accompanies this grounding. Allow the breath to move freely along the full length of your torso, without bloating the belly. With an exhalation, soften and release the weight of your organs down, feeling the navel draw slightly inward. Sense your organs resting on the floor of your pelvis, and pay attention to the firming in your legs and a subtle lift moving up the spine. As you catch this energy, surrender your shoulders and begin your inhalation, feeling your breath across your back as you raise your arms. You should sense lightness and length in your arms, like a kid flying down the road in a car with his arm sticking out the window. The effortless lifting of weight by its very nature is grace, and in Urdhva Hastasana, grace is the outer expression of the inner movement of energy, where all effort is coordinated and directed from the abdominal center.
At the peak of the pose, the arms converge over your head as you bring your palms together. Spread your shoulder blades and draw your chin in slightly (towards the center of the throat) as you take your head back and gaze at your thumbs. If you have neck vertebrae complications, keep your head upright until you develop the strength and understanding necessary for taking it back.
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