Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana or Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (aka UGHiHATEthisASANA)
Pronounced Oo-tee-ta Has-ta Pa-dan-goos-tah-sanna
utthita = extended
hasta = hand
pada = foot
angusta = big toe
Fun Fact: While commonly symbolic for ‘peace,’ the v-sign—created by extending the pointer and middle fingers—is seen as a sign of profanity in other cultures depending on the direction of the fingers and rotation of the hand.
Think about that as you reach for your toes. Are you practicing peace, or are you just screwing around?
- Balance Builder. And how!
- Strengthen Feet and Legs. Important for many reasons, of course
- Hamstring and Hip Opener. Everyone’s favorite!
- Core Stabilizer. Learn to stay engaged without locking up
- Focuses Awareness. It’s nigh impossible to do this pose and not care.
Ankle Injury? This might not be the best pose for you... Yet.
Step by Step
- Inhale: Root down through standing leg and foot, spreading toes. Find a still point to focus on in front of you (drishti).
- Exhale: Visualize the final position before starting to move. Feel the soon-to-be-lifted side begin to lighten up.
- Beginning of inhale: Lift knee to chest. Reach corresponding thumb and forefingers along inside of leg to wrap around big toe (fingers between toes, thumb around inside).
- Middle of inhale: Extend lifted leg forward, keeping foot and toes flexed.
- Top of inhale: Stay focused! Avoid rounding in the back.
- Exhale: Ground down through grounded foot and leg, keeping knee extended (not locked), toes spread and pointed forward. Stay focused on your drishti!
- Inhale: Advanced Variation—Begin to open leg out to the side. Free hand can stay on hip, gaze remains forward. Keep gripped arm engaged, elbow bent as necessary. Have fun maintaining balance!
- Exhale: Advanced Variation (continued)—Turn gaze to look away from lifted foot.
Modifications and Beginner’s Tip
Having Trouble Keeping Balance? Don’t worry about having a straight lifted leg. You can just raise the knee (keeping the lifted ankle flexed) and bind hands around the top of the shin.
Tight Hips/Hamstring? Same rules apply as above. You can also use a strap or towel bound around the ball of the raised foot to relieve some pressure and to help keep the spine vertical.
Deepen the Pose
In addition to the advanced variations above, one could...
Release the Bind! Play with letting go of the toes at various points of this posture. In addition to looking like Jean-Claude Van Damme, you’ll certainly hone a higher sense of balance and fluid strength.
Close Your Eyes. It ended up making Luke Skywalker a better Jedi knight in the long run... Imagine what it could do for your yoga practice!
Image Credit: BeyondDrishti