With the warm spring sunshine now in our sights, this month is the perfect time to reconnect to our roots and establish a firm foundation in our peak pose for the month: uttitha hasta padangusthasana - try saying that one quickly three times in a row!!
Sure we could call it by it's English name: 'Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose' but much like the posture itself, it's important to stay connected to the roots of yoga and honour it's history; the name itself is a combination of several elements:
ANGUSTHA: Big Toe
This pose represents a personal support system ever present within each of us; a constant balance between ease and equanimity. In this posture we are challenged not only to access our core strength, we must also keep our heart WIDE open, our head held HIGH and extend past our own periphery. And when all of these come together it provides us a BIG, EXPANSIVE physical expression of strength, balance and most importantly grace.
Of course that doesn't mean it's always going to look or feel graceful...often times balance postures can be a manifestation of the fluctuations of our minds, which from day to day change; one day we'll be cool and calm and the next we'll be wobbling all over the place. Such is the nature of our monkey minds! We we gift ourselves with time on our mat AND with patience we can begin to experience the fullness this posture provides. Flexibility of course is a factor - mentally as much as physically; we have to create length and opening in our hamstrings which for most of us in our seated lives is a BIG ask just like the pose itself.
To find balance however, we need create an environment where everything works together, so rather than just focusing on one element – in this case the hamstrings, we have to instead look at the bigger picture. And here is where the yoga comes in, not the physical hand to foot or fancy pose yoga, but the real yoga – recognition perhaps of a limitation or an imbalance, which to anyone else may appear to be a hindrance, except if you’re a yogi. For it is in this space that we are given the opportunity to observe our truest nature, however good or bad it may be; this is the very essence of yoga. The yoga postures themselves are just the cherry on an already delicious creamy butter frosted, double chocolate cake (YOU are the cake by the way).
The fullest expression of uttitha hasta padangusthasana is really about connecting the dots, bringing awareness and strength to other body parts such as the hips, shoulders, spine and abdominals. These parts of the body though separate all have a relationship with one another, so while having open hamstrings will certainly be of benefit, practicing variations or modifications of the posture AND inviting the assistance of props such as straps and blocks to enhance our experience by taking us a little deeper than we may go on our own.
The truth is that it does not matter what the pose actually LOOKS like from the outside, what matters is your experience of your own body when you get there . In order to truly be grounded we must aim open and explore other parts of ourselves which from the outside looking in may not be so obvious. Take precious time to look inward and create a deep sense of interconnectedness – it is from this place that we are able to expand into possibility.
Hasta La Vista!