The holiday season is officially underway. This season is marked by an explosion of energy. Holiday lights adorn houses, commercials and deals are non-top, there’s a holiday party or celebration just about every weekend, and don’t forget all of the treats. All of this expansion can leave us feeling like we’re being pulled in a hundred different directions. As you celebrate and shine this season, be sure to add in activities and practices that keep you coming back to your center and home base.
Thankfully we have the opportunity to practice finding balance even when our energy is being pulled in lots of different directions. When we practice expansive reaching postures we must create balance and security in the pose. Without these stabilizing energize the expansion becomes too much and the pose loses its integrity and beauty, everything falls apart. In the wide leg variation of Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana the reach of the body and leg are not the only important actions. The balancing actions are the collecting of the core and the lift of the pelvic floor.
Try these variations as you practice.
Option 1 – Open Tree. From Tadasana focus on the grounding through the feet and the reach through the crown of the head. Gently tone the belly towards the spine and become aware of the stability and strength of the core. Use your strong back muscles to reinforce the foundation of the spine. Draw the knee up to 90* and open it as wide as you can without lowering the knee or collapsing through the spine. Maintain the energy of the long spine that you cultivated in Tadasana. Place the hand on the inner thigh to gently coax the knee open.
Option 2 – Big Toe Hold. From Option 1, draw the knee up higher until you can reach the hand to the foot. With peace sign fingers, reach between the big and second toes, wrap the fingers under the big toe and press the pad of the thumb into the toenail. Reaffirm the length of the spine. Draw the heart open by reaching the shoulder heads broad. Reach the sits bone of the lifted leg towards the floor to level the hips. Lift through the pelvic floor drawing energy back in towards the body. Bring attention to the activity and stability of the core. Lift through the pelvic floor. Balance the reaching energy of the leg with the actions of the core and pelvic floor.
Option 3 – Leg Extension with a Strap. As you begin to extend the leg and invite more expansion to the posture, do not sacrifice the stability and length of the base. As you work, check in with the standing leg and the length of the spine. If the standing leg needs to bend or the torso is shifting forward, then back off the expansion. Think of the extended leg as the cherry on top of a sundae, it’s the very last component you add to the pose. Using a strap or binding ring, place it around the ball of the foot. Hold the strap to mimic the placement of the hand as it will when you are holding the foot. Turn the hand, so the thumb is pointing up and the palm of the hand is forward. Use enough of the strap, so you can extend the leg completely. Lift the kneecap towards the hip to protect the knee and hamstring.
Option 4 – Uttitha Hasta Pādānguṣṭhāsana Variation. When you feel you are ready, take the lifted foot into the hand, finding the big toe hold. Reach through the heel, extending the lifted leg long. Lift the knee cap towards the hip. Keep the standing leg and spine long as you maintain the lift of the pelvic floor. To add more challenge, extend the opposite hand and take the gaze to it. If you have more space in the hamstring, bend the elbow of the hand holding the foot, lifting the foot higher. Be sure not to hitch the hip up to create space, keep the hip descending.
It’s normal to feel like you are being pulled in many different directions over the holidays. But, keep coming back to your center, back to your home base and you should be able to keep things together. As you practice be sure to pick a path that is challenging, put also safe for your body. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.
[…] Bird of Paradise. The preparatory poses of Vṛkṣāsana, Baddha Pārśvakoṇāsana, and Uttitha Hasta Pādānguṣṭhāsana Variation will get you ready to try this posture. Be sure to practice with these and other hip openers, […]