By Faye Martins
Standing leg poses help strengthen your sense of balance and coordination. These Yoga poses can be both challenging and rewarding. Standing leg poses also help to fire up your hara or will center and strengthen your leg and back muscles. One legged standing Yoga poses are even more challenging and fortifying. Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, or Extended Standing Leg Stretch, is one of the core Yoga poses of Ashtanga Yoga. It is practiced directly after the Sun Salutations and standing postures. Extended Standing Leg Stretch will strengthen all of the muscles in your legs and many of your core abdominal muscles. This posture will also provide you with an opportunity to focus your power of concentration and fine tune your sense of balance.
* Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
To practice Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, come to Mountain Pose at the front your Yoga mat. Feel the ground beneath you and evenly distribute the weight between your two feet. Lift your toes several times and place them firmly back on the mat. Each toe should have a distinct and firm place on the mat. If your hamstrings are tight, you may wish to use a belt or a towel while practicing this pose. With an inhale, raise your right knee to hip height. Grasp your right big toe with your thumb and forefinger. Keep your gaze focused on a point in front of you. Center and balance on your left foot.
With your next exhale, extend your right leg out in front of you. If you need the assistance of a belt in order to extend your right leg, wrap the belt around the ball of your right foot. A belt will extend your reach substantially. If you are unable to extend your leg today with a belt, simply balance on your left foot as you hold your right bent leg at hip height for several breaths. If you are able to extend your right leg, with your next exhale, fully extend your leg in front of you without “crunching” the torso. Maintain the erectness and alignment of the spine. Hold this position for three to five breaths. When you are ready to move out of the pose, release the clasp of your fingers or the belt and hold your leg up at hip height for three to five more breaths. Slowly release your right leg back to the Yoga mat. Repeat on the left side.
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