Improve Your Balance: 4 Steps To Master This Challenging Pose

Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) helps us find balance in those in-between places we can't always access, and have more faith in our riotous roots.

As we hover in the place between seasons, there’s still a chill in the air on most days. I'm impatiently yearning for the sight of green growth — grass, leaves, crocuses, daffodils. I'm restlessly awaiting the full transition to spring.

Waiting is often challenging and those spaces in-between are uncomfortable because they’re unclear and we’re impatient. We like certainty. We like clarity. And, ideally, we'd like to get there now — wherever there might be — a season, a destination, a goal.

Rumi said, “And don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots down there are riotous.”

So this is the perfect time to practice a pose that challenges our balance but still grounds us to the earth. Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose grounds you physically through your standing leg, and energetically to the present moment. As you practice your balance you can refine what it is that you want — where you are now and where you want to be.

This asana invites us to find the balance between rest and growth. Take time to work with finding stability in this pose, and be willing to explore that off the mat in your life as well.

Warm up your hamstrings with a Standing Forward Bend and work on your balance with Tree Pose (Vrksasana) before you begin.

Step 1: Building A Foundation

Stand with your feet at hips-width apart. Bring your hands to Anjali mudra, with your palms in a prayer position at your heart.

Visualize a vibrant green light emanating from your heart space — this is the color of growth, of life, of verdant nature. It’s also the color of your Heart Chakra (Anahata).

Think about what you want to “grow” in your life, what is secretly hibernating in your heart. Make that your intention.

Root down through your left foot. Shift your attention first, and then your weight into the left foot.

Come onto your right toes. If you’re new to the practice, or balance is challenging, you can leave your right toes on the mat. Or, lift your right leg and hold your shin. Maintaining your balance and focusing on your solid foundation, hold here for 5-8 breaths and release.

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Step 2: Playing With Balance + Increasing Flexibility

If you’re ready to progress a little more, loop a strap around the ball of your right foot and extend your foot forward as much as you are comfortable. It's OK to have the right knee slightly bent.

Pull back against the strap and lift your heart. Notice how that small action makes your standing foot feel more rooted, allowing you to feel more balance and ease.

Step 3: Extending The Leg Out To The Side

Transition the strap to your right hand and extend your left arm out to the side to help distribute your weight more evenly on both sides of the body.

Slowly, draw your right leg out to the right. Breathe here for 5-8 breaths, finding the point between extension and balance, between feeling grounded and reaching a bit further.

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Step 4: Entering The Full Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)

If you’re ready to work without a strap, come back to holding your knee in front of you.

Reach for your big toe and extend first forward, then through the transition out to the side as described above, but without the strap. Again, it's OK if your knee is slightly bent.

When you finish your breaths, return back to center holding your knee. Take another breath, then bring your right foot back down to the mat, transitioning with grace and control.

Bring your palms back to your heart and breathe into your intention, into as much patience as you can muster for the spaces in-between.

Release your palms. Repeat on the other side.

Gallery courtesy of Sequence Yoga

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