Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana

How to Do Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana
Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana. Ben Goldstein

Type of pose: Standing

Benefits: Improves posture, strengthens the legs, full body stretch

Urdhva hastasana is most often done as part of the Sun Salutation sequence. As such, it sometimes gets short shrift. You may stay in the pose for less than one breath during a vinyasa flow, but it's worthwhile to take the time on your own to explore its benefits more fully.

If you've ever gotten out of bed in the morning and had a long languorous stretch, that's basically urdhva hastasana.

But just as mountain pose is a lot more than just standing around, doing raised hands pose correctly requires attention to detail. The basic thing to keep in mind is the push-pull opposition of some parts of the body moving down will others move up. That is what takes this stretch to the next level. So, for instance, the legs below the knee and particularly the feet root down in the ground while the thighs draw up. Similarly, the hands reach up while the shoulders are drawn strongly down. 


1. From mountain pose - tadasana, inhale to bring your arms out to the sides and up toward the ceiling.

2. Keep your arms parallel or bring your palms together overhead only if you can do so without hunching up your shoulders. If your palms are apart, keep them facing each other. Your arms should be very straight and your hands active all the way through the fingertips. Take your gaze (drishti) up toward your thumbs.

3. Slide your shoulders away from your ears and your shoulder blades down your back.

4. If you feel like your ribs are jutting forward or pulling apart, knit them back together. 

5. Keep your thigh muscles strongly engaged so that they draw the kneecaps up. Your legs should be straight but don't lock your knees.

Keeping a microbend in the knees is a safer position for your joints.

Beginners' Tips:

1. Practice the pose with your back to a wall so you can feel the alignment as each part of your body stacks up straight.

2. Place a block between your thighs. Squeeze the block and roll it slightly backward to feel the engagement and rotation of the thighs, including a broadening of the sit bones. Then remove the block and try to replicate the action of rotating the thighs inward. 

Advanced Tips:

1. Take this posture into a backbend. Imagine your spine draping over a beach ball as you lean back. Let the neck hang back if that's comfortable. Eventually, you may be able to drop all the way back to wheel pose. Practice this near a wall at first, using your hands on the wall to work your way down to the floor.

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