Urdhva Prasarita Padasana: Upward Stretched Legs
Despite our best intentions, we often need an extra nudge of willpower to help us carry through our daily mission statements and to-do lists. Well the good news is that support is just a few cycles of breath away- yoga therapy to the rescue!
Urdhva Prasarita Padasana or upward stretched legs pose strengthens willpower by activating the uddiyana bandha. A bandha is an energy lock or seal in the body and the uddiyana bhanda represents an abdominal retraction lock. When activated, the abdominal muscles pull up and in creating a natural upward flow of energy from the naval center. Thus, upward stretched legs pose simultaneously builds the strength of the core muscles of the body while improving posture. Urdhva Prasarita Padasna promotes muscular harmony between the lumbar spine and the hip flexors. If you suffer from lower back injuries and or sciatic pain, keep your knees bent and be mindful when coming into the pose by listening to your body to take note if any acute pain arises as a sign of backing off.
As core strength directly relates to strong back muscles, Gary Kraftsow’s Viniyoga Therapy: Complete Back Care helps to undo the damage of tight muscles to reignite energy in the body while promoting strength and stability throughout the back.
To perform urdhva prasarita padasana begin by lying supine on the floor with the arms relaxed alongside the body. Bend both knees as you bring them into your chest and on your next inhalation, simultaneously keep the left leg bent towards your chest as you raise the right leg upwards, flexing the foot, and pressing the lower back firmly onto the ground while also raising your left arm over head, palm facing the sky. On your exhalation, bend the right leg to meet your left leg bending in at the chest, relaxing the feet and lowering your arm right. On your next exhalation, repeat the same movement on the opposite side of the body. Thus, extending the left leg through the heel towards the sky while the right knee remains bent the and right arm extends overhead. Using the entire exhalation breath, bend and return the left leg to meet the right, relax the feet and lower the right arm alongside your torso.
For a symmetrical variation of the pose, bend both knees into your chest with your arms, palms facing down, resting alongside the body. On your next inhalation, raise your legs upwards, flexing the feet, and pressing the lower back firmly onto the ground. Reach over head with your arms and try to straighten the knees completely stacking the joints one on top of another: heels reaching upwards, thighs directly over the hips. As you exhale bend both knees into your chest, relaxing the feet and lowering the arms down by your side.