About Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana
Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana also called Standing Split Pose is an asana suitable for beginner?s in modification and more intermediate level students is full fruition.
Benefits of Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana
The asana helps to stretch the hamstrings, calves, Achilles and thighs, and also strengthens the aforementioned as well as the ankles and the gluteal muscles as they work to keep the lifted leg elevated. It opens the back of the legs, the groin muscles and the quadricepts. It helps to calm the nervous system and the brain and stimulates the liver and kidneys by gently massaging them, increasing blood and lymph flow.
How to Perform Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana
To practice this asana you can approach it from several other asana. One of my favorite ways to enter the pose is with a lunging forward action from high or low lunge, (Ashva Sanchalanasana). From Tadasana, work through a Vinyasa and come into Ashva Sanchalanasana. Stabilizing through the front leg, press the foot into the floor, and use the gluteal muscles to move through Virabhadrasana (Warrior III) and then into Urdhva Prasarita Padasana by reaching the arms forward and sending the lifted leg to the sky while folding forward over the front leg. Be sure to keep a slight bend in the standing leg. The hips should be square, and the front body long and open ? keeping the chest wide across the clavicular bones. Beginning students can start by just keeping the back leg at Warrior III height, more parallel to the floor and trying their best to fold more deeply over the standing leg, but more advanced students will look as if they are doing the splits in the sky, lifting the top leg so that it stacks right on top of the standing leg, while drawing the forehead closer to the standing-leg knee.
The gluteal of the lifted leg should be engaged to send the top leg higher, but while keeping the spine as long as possible and lifting the sitting bones toward the sky just as you would in a traditional Standing Forward Fold. The arms are of question here as well because there are many options depending on your flexibility and balance. To begin, the arms can rest below the shoulders, with the fingers just touching the floor, and beginning to bend at the elbows while relaxing the shoulder blades back and down, and keeping the tops of the shoulder bones away from the ears for a long, relaxed neck. The trapezius muscles tend to tense in this posture if one is not aware and consciously relaxes them. In this more beginner version, you will resemble Warrior III more than Standing Split, with time, and as the standing leg hamstring and groin muscles start to elongate, you can draw the torso more toward the knee, and wrap the hands around the standing-leg calf, beginning to add the balancing portion of this asana, or just place one hand on the floor, while wrapping the other around the calf for more stability.
Variations of Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana
More beginning level students will find it difficult to lift the top leg high, use the gluteals and balance all at the same time, so it is important to allow the flexibility to increase significantly before adding the balance portion of the asana. Another option is to bow the knee completely into the shin, and hold onto the standing-leg calf with both arms hugging around it, and the top leg completely lifted. This is the most advanced version of the pose. The posture can be held for five to seven breaths or longer for more advanced students. To release the pose, bend the front leg, and rock back to Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) or just join the feet and roll up through the spine to Tadasana (Mountain Pose). To release the hip flexors, it is a good idea to follow with a Standing Forward Fold.
For students who need some help opening the standing leg, they can use a wall as leverage. It is advisable, however, to start with the top leg bent, and just placing the shin of the top leg against the wall, while sending the standing leg heel into the floor, and only later, as the hips, groin and hamstrings are ready, to slide the top leg all the way against the wall and draw the sitting bones back to the wall. You can begin by practicing Downward Facing Dog with your heels close to a wall and your head farthest away from it. Form here, lift one leg and place the shin, as discussed above, against the wall. The toes should aim straight up with the toenails against the wall. Some students will find this is a terrific stretch to the ankle muscles, but care should be given if it is too intense, and modified appropriately in such cases. Next, the standing leg heel can ground into the floor, and as you slide your opposite knee up the wall, walk you hands back, as close to your standing-leg foot as you are able. You can adjust here as much as you like.
Utilizing the wall, you can eventually draw the top leg all the way up so that the shin and thigh are touching, and the sitting bones reaching back toward the wall so that you feel the very top of the top leg?s thigh touching the wall, while the lower-leg gluteal is almost touching the wall. The hands can rest on the floor, or you can grab the ankle with both hands to work on balance with the added support of the wall. To release the asana, simply walk the hands forward and back to Downward Facing Dog and slide the top leg down the wall. Release completely from here by letting your knees come to the floor and rest in Balasana (Child?s Pose) for several breaths.
Contraindications for Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana
This asana is contraindicated for anyone with lower back, ankle, knee or groin injuries. Otherwise, especially tight hamstrings and groin muscles will prevent the full posture, and in such cases can be modified.
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