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Often taken as a transition movement into other poses, it is necessary to consider utthita hasta padasana as a pose in its own right.

Utthita hasta padasana (extended hand foot pose) used to be considered so lowly that, even though it has a dedicated plate assigned to it in Light On Yoga, it never really had a name. It was considered more to be a transition movement into all of the wide legged standing postures. In recent times, however, it has been given a name and is even considered, within the Iyengar community, to be an asana in its own right. This is for good reason. A well set utthita hasta padasana creates a clear connection between the foundation and the extension of the spine, and it is important to establish this relationship in this basic pose for the reason that it often acts as a transition into all other wide legged standing poses.

It is best to come into utthita hasta padasana by taking the hands across the chest and jumping the legs apart. This way of entering the pose would only be contraindicated for people with knee or lower back issues, or if the practitioner was menstruating or pregnant. In these cases it would be preferable to step the legs apart. It is imperative to get the distance between the feet correct. How far this distance should be is dependent on how long the legs are, the proportional relationship between the length of the legs and the length of the spine and arms, and also what pose it is being used for to transition into. Generally, however, the feet need to be as wide as the wrists when the arms are extended. It is beneficial for the energetic structure of the pose if the feet are wide. If you look at the evolution of BKS Iyengar’s teaching and presentation of standing poses you will notice that over the years the distance between the feet gradually increased. The wider the feet the more they have to activate to create the connection up through the legs into the hips and into the spine. The more the feet activate, the more the ‘intelligence’ is brought into the legs. At the same time the feet should not be so wide that the connection up through the legs into the hips dissipates, or the relationship of the thigh bone into the hip socket, as felt in samasthiti (or tadasana), is distorted.

It is a common Iyengar yoga instruction in samasthiti (or tadasana) to ‘press the four corners of the feet into the floor’. This needs to be done with even more consideration in utthita hasta padasana due to the angle the legs make with the floor. Habitually the weight will be taken more into the inner or outer edges of the feet. If the weight is more to the inner edges the outer legs become dull and, conversely, if the weight is more to the outer edges the inner legs become dull. One has to learn to work the feet into the floor so that an even spread of intelligence is brought right around the circumference of the legs, and that this intelligence is drawn up through the entire length of the legs from the feet right up into the hip sockets.

Often in the pose the backs of the thighs become dull and the fronts of the thighs puff forward. The work of the feet has to be such that the fronts of the thighs are brought towards the backs of the thighs in order to fill this area. To counter this action the sacrum needs to be taken into the body in order to keep the pelvis level and prevent the puffiness mentioned above being taken into the buttocks. This also helps to feed a vertical extension of the spine from its base. This vertical extension of the spine from the work of the legs can be further enhanced by the horizontal extension of the arms. When the arms are extended correctly the shoulder bones are rolled back, the shoulder blades are drawn down the back and taken in onto the back ribs, and the front chest is opened. This helps to create a solid base from which a transition into any number of wide legged standing poses can commence in an uplifted state.