Utthanasana (Squatting with feet apart)


Squatting with feet apart.

Some of the reported problems in this asana so far have been concerning the alignment of the joints in the lower limbs and the holding of the core muscles.
All standing postures should begin with an awareness of the feet; how we position them will determine the outcome of the posture and affect the potential benefits of the practice.
This term we have been practising Utthanasana with the toes turning outward in order to open the hips whilst squatting.
If the toes turn out sideways consider what takes place in the ankles and knees and hips?
The response will depend very much on how we have positioned the feet and their relationship with the floor. To illustrate this we need to make some enquiries.
When turning the toes sideways do the arches drop? Do the insteps roll inwards?
Make a deliberate movement rolling the instep towards the floor and notice what happens in the other joints…Knees? Hips?
Hopefully it is becoming obvious that when standing, however we position the feet, the rest of the body will balance itself above them, and therefore we may have to make some deliberate adjustments to the feet in order to stabilize the posture and achieve the desired effects.
Make a deliberate movement to bring the outside of the foot down to the floor and note the difference. The hips will open out more naturally and the knees will follow the line of the ankles and feet.
Using Ujjayi breathing we inhale so that on the exhale we can begin a slow deliberate
contraction of the pelvic floor (moola bandha). The option to include further core contractions such as Ashwini mudra (contracting the anal sphincter) and Vajroli mudra (contracting the urethra) and contracting the transverse abdominal muscles below the navel are also available and will give more emphasis to core strength throughout this practice.
At the same time as we exhale and contract we bend the knees, making sure that they bend outwards over the toes.
The spine should be straight and we stay in this squat counting three breaths. Notice that the breath is slightly restricted since we are holding contracted core muscles which limit the movement of the breath in the lower abdomen.
There is a great deal to focus on and it can be a challenge to maintain Ujjayi breathing and contracted core muscles as well as keeping the outer edge of the feet down whilst counting three breaths!
Often the levels of concentration can result in facial Description: adand upper body tensions, so it helps to check from time to time that the upper body is relaxed, and the facial muscles are soft, whilst the tension is held in the lower body from the waist downwards.
If releasing this tension is difficult at first then try practising the dynamic version of Utthanasana using the exhale to contract core muscles whilst bending the knees and the inhale to straighten the legs and relax.

Benefits: This asana strengthens the muscles that support the middle-lower spine but especially strengthens the pelvic floor, and the thighs, knees and ankles. For women this also tones the uterus.
It encourages the flow of Apana Vayu (downward moving energy) and therefore helps to relieve constipation and improve elimination. When we practise this whilst holding core muscles we are asking our core muscles to work against this energy which further increases their strength.

Contra-indications: After the first three months of pregnancy it is best to practise only the dynamic version and not to maintain the position for longer than a breath.
In extreme cases of constipation do not hold the position but instead practise the dynamic version moving with the breath..


Published by liz on Thursday, 14 November 2013, last updated on Thursday, 14 November 2013 at 5:07PM
Categories: Yoga Practice

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