One of the reasons I love this pose so much is that the name it is fun to say…both in Sanskrit and English. Try it 3 times fast… Utthita Hasta Padangustasana… Utthita Hasta Padangustasana… Utthita Hasta Padangustasana. Fun right? Also, Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose, just sounds made up and yet perfectly descriptive.
OK, on a more Yogic note, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana was one of the first poses that really demonstrated for me the importance of bandhas, drishti and breath coming together to create a strong yet soft and focused balance posture.
The awareness in this posture comes from the inside-out. There is an intensity that is created from all 3 bandhas being active and engaged. The bandhas feel like the internal support necessary to find the external balance.
The drishti is a soft gaze that adjusts gracefully as the leg is extended out to the side. I love the rhythm of the gaze moving over the shoulder with the same timing of the leg moving outward in opposition of the gaze. Landing here, feels like the beginning of a new pose all together…well, officially it is: Ardha Utthita Hasta Padangustasana.
The breath is also a stabilizing factor in this posture as it is used to create clear focus allowing us to become less interested in the distractions of the mind. The breath feels like a holding space for all aspects of the posture…as the breath maintains its equanimity, it gives unity to the different variations of the pose.
Finally, after bringing the leg back to center, my favorite part of the pose is releasing the toe, bringing the hands to the waist and holding the extended leg for five breaths. Finding the calm within, while the quadricep is fully engaged and the leg is shaking from its own weight is disturbingly exciting to me (I probably need to get out more). Again, I notice that this is where the super trio of bandhas, drishti and breath allow me to find the full expression of the posture. At a time where it is tempting to squinch the muscles of my face, hold my breath and count to 5 as quickly as I can, these three yogic principles bring me back into alignment both internally and externally. As I ground into the earth, lift up from the crown and expand open from the heart, I find the dignity in the posture that is…Utthita Hasta Padangustasana!