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Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) is a balancing posture in which you raise one leg at hip level and hold onto its big toe with your hand. It’s a pose that can make you feel powerful—and build on your strength and flexibility, particularly in the back of your legs and your ankles.
If you have tight hamstrings and can’t straighten your leg while keeping your spine straight, use a strap, practice with a bent lifted knee, or hold your knee instead of your toe. Find the variation that works best for you—and your body’s needs.
If you fall out of this pose, don’t be harsh on yourself. Falling out of postures is ok, says yoga teacher Noah Mazé, founder of The Mazé Method. “That’s why we call it yoga practice: Your practice on the mat is training you for your practice off the mat.”
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
utthita = extended
hasta = hand
pada = foot
angusta = big toe
asana = pose
Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose I Basics
Pose Type: Standing balance
Targets: Lower body
Benefits: Extended Hand-to-Big Toe Pose improves balance, postural and body awareness, and can boost energy and fight fatigue. It can help build confidence and empowerment, improves posture, and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and doing computer work. On the lifted leg, the back of your thigh (hamstring), calf, and inner thigh (adductor) get stretched. On the standing leg, your thigh, buttock (glute), and around your ankle get strengthened.
- From Tadasana, press into the big toe mounds, and observe the natural curve of the low back (pelvis is neither spilling forward nor backward) and the evenness on the two sides of the torso.
- Firm the left leg, without hyperextending the left knee, then bend the right leg and clasp the big toe with the first two fingers of the right hand.
- Press the right foot forward and notice the effect throughout the rest of the body.
- Lift the sternum up and restore some of the curve of the lower back.
- Find an anterior tilt of the pelvis to deepen the work in the hamstrings.
- Notice if the right hip is hiked up higher than the left hip.
- Descend the right hip down and in toward the left foot in order to bring symmetry back to the torso; do this without compromising the straightness or neutrality of the left leg.
- Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a couple of minutes.
- Take a complete cycle of breath, using the exhale to root down firmly with the left foot.
- Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a couple of minutes, then, use an exhale to recommit to the rootedness of the left foot.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
You can hold this pose longer by supporting the raised-leg foot on the top edge of a chair back (padded with a blanket). Set the chair an inch or two from a wall and press your raised heel firmly to the wall.
Teaching Utthita Hasta Padangustasana
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Don’t allow your pelvis to overly lift on the outstretched-leg side. Instead, keep your pelvis parallel to the floor as best you can. If it lifts, the elevated leg internally rotates and can contribute to instability in the hamstrings, hips, and pelvis.
- Don’t sink or slump your weight into the hip of your standing leg, causing it to move away from the midline. If this happens, it means that the glutes are not engaged, creating instability in the outer hip and pelvis.
Reclining Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I
Try this pose on your back so you can focus on your raised leg instead of balancing, and it prevents rounding forward of the spine (spinal flexion).
Preparatory and Counter Poses
- Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I)
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Supta Padangusthasana I (Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose I)
- Vrksasana (Tree Pose)