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Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, the Standing hand-big-toe-posture, by Danielle Arin

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Utthita Hasta Padangustasana

All balancing yoga postures require a meticulous alignment of the skeleton, proper rooting of the feet, open groins, long hamstrings and an effortless approach brought by a thorough preparatory practice. 


Stage 1 – Supta Padangustasana 

Prepare by getting a sticky mat and a strap. Lie on your back on the mat, near a wall, with the sole of the right foot resting against the wall, knee slightly bent. 
Bend and raise the left leg; place a strap around the front of the left foot. Press the right heel firmly into the wall and straighten the whole leg while stretching the left leg. Keep the left hip extending forward away from the waist and lengthen the waist. Sink the belly and soften the front ribs. Draw the shoulder blades down away from the shoulders. Open the collar bones sideways. At first, keep the upper leg at a 90 degree angle. 
Squeeze the lower outer hip bones together, release the inner top thigh muscles (abductors) sideways and, with an exhalation, draw the left leg closer to your chest while extending the groin forward and releasing the back of the thigh away from the leg towards the wall. 
Be careful not to bend the right leg and to maintain the firm pressure of the heel on the wall. Rotate the right thigh inwards and drop the back of the thigh towards the floor. As the next stage, try to hold the left foot with both hands Stay in this pose for as long as your hamstrings elongate (it normally takes two and a half minutes for a muscle to stretch fully). Exhale and lower the left leg using the full hinging action of the hip. Repeat on the other side. 

Stage 2

Place a chair a few centimetres away from a wall with its back nearest to the wall. Pad the back of the chair with a blanket. Have your strap handy. 
Stand in Tadasana (Samasthiti) in front of the chair about one leg’s length from the wall, feet hip width apart and second toes parallel to each other; press the mounts of the big toes and of the little toes down; lift the arches of the feet and the ankles; take the outer calf muscles in and back; squeeze the hips together., anterior spine lifted; belly back, sacrum lifted; shoulder-blades down.
Without swinging the right foot out,bend the left leg and raise it up; rest the left foot on the back of the chair in such a way that the right leg is perpendicular to the floor and the left leg is parallel to the floor; keep both hips aligned. Press the left heel on the wall, take the buttock bone away from the heel and keep the left foot pointing straight up. Place a belt around the upper part of the foot and stand straight, spine in line with the supporting leg. 
Adjust the actions on the legs and on all the body as described above and in Stage 1. The left hip 
will have a tendency to rise, if this is the case, soften the hip and drop the groin to the floor. Maintain the stability of the pose by narrowing the outer lower hips and by releasing the inner top thighs out. 
Repeat on the other side

Stage 3

With your back against the wall and your feet a few centimetres away from the wall, bend the right leg, hold behind the knee and draw the thigh towards the belly while descending the right hip.
Lift the trunk and take the shoulder blade down.
Place a strap around the ball of the right foot and with an exhalation, slowly raise the leg; avoid bending the supporting leg or turning the foot. Extend the outer right hip into the wall and drop its buttock.
If you can, hold big toe of the right foot with the right hand and maintain this position for while. 
With an exhalation, carefully lower the leg.
Repeat on the other side
You can try to practising this pose facing a wall and taking the foot up the wall. 

Final Pose 

Repeat the whole sequence using no props (except maybe for a strap) and no wall! 
Stand in a Samasthiti (Tadasana). Place the right hand on your right hip. Bend the left leg, lift the big toe with the left hand and drop the left hip. With an exhalation straighten the leg without raising the hip; drop the left shoulder. 
Do not lean the trunk back or take the upper leg to the side. 
If you can, hold the foot with both hands and with an exhalation gradually take the head and your trunk towards your foot without bending the legs. Release the foot, lower the leg and raise the head and trunk. Repeat on the other side

Do not measure the success of your physical performance, but rather pay particular attention to what is happening to your body, since the body is the gate of the soul. Focus on the even flow of you breath since the breath is the spirit of the pose and the measure of your inner and outer stability. 
Composure, patience and humility are more important here than performance and achievement. A balancing pose teaches us to stand our ground with equanimity, hence opening the path for spiritual enlightenment.

Danielle Arin