Urdhva Hastasana is one of those poses you were naturally doing before you even knew it was yoga! Upward Salute is a natural stretch for the entire body. As you stretch your fingertips away from your toe tips you will feel a natural boost in energy, and bonus – it feels really good!
Urdhva Hastasana is pronunciation– OORD-vah hahs-TAHS-uh-nuh and translates from Sanskrit to English as Upward Salute. Urdhva means “upward”, Hasta means “hand” and Asana means “pose” or “seat”.
It’s an all levels Standing balance with a mild backbending component. It’s often practiced in Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa and Power. In Ashtanga Yoga it’s part of the in the Sun Salutation A and B sequence and practiced to warm up the body.
It’s quite natural upon awakening to take a stretch of the fingers away from toes and often done without even thinking about it.
No need to prepare for this one as its often presented in the warm up phase of the class and you can follow up with Uttanasana or Sun Salutations.
Please exercise precautions if you are working with spine, shoulder or neck injuries, otherwise its therapeutic for all.
Let’s start by standing at the front of your mat in Tadasana – Mountain Pose. Bring your feet to touch with heels slightly off one another or feet at hips width distance apart and parallel to the outside edges of your mat.
Take your arms alongside you, externally rotate at the shoulder joint so palms face forward and the head of the shoulders roll back, leaving the chest broad east to west.
Straighten the arm by contracting the triceps and feel the skin cling to the muscles and muscles drawing towards the bone.
On an inhale, slowly raise your arms without borrowing movement from the spine. In other words, try not to default to a backbend right out of the gate.
Your biceps will frame your ears with palms facing one another.
Draw both straight arms back on each inhale and keep softening your front ribs back and down towards the waist on each exhale.
All the major joints of the body are aligned. Your wrists are stacked over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles.
Look up between your hands if your neck is comfortable with it and you can maintain the natural curve of the cervical, one way to tell is if you can breathe freely.
Modification- If you are working with a shoulder injury you can practice the same actions in the lower body without raising you arms above your head.
Variations- If you want to add intensity and feel the body is prepared for it, you can add a backbend in the upper back.
Common Misalignments- It’s super common to turn this into more of a backbend rather than spinal awakener and shoulder opener.
The FIX- Keep your front ribs contained as you raise your arms, that way you emphasize chest and shoulder opening vs just giving the shape away to bending where your already bendy, which is typically your low spine (lumbar) and neck spine (cervical). Make sure your gaze is the last thing to land.
Urdhva Hastasana- Upward Salute is a standing balance pose with a mild backbending quality. When we extend from the feet to the fingers it lengthens the side body, strengthens the spine, chest and shoulders and stimulates overall energy.
It contains all the alignment principles necessary for inversions like Downward-Facing Dog, Feathered Peacock Pose and Handstand. However, in Upward Salute you are standing on your feet as you were designed instead of your hands which can be challenging for many.
It’s also much more difficult to find your balance when your upside down and your relationship to gravity is different. But, Urdhva Hastasana can teach us the same actions in a less demanding way.
Point being, know your habits and check yourself so you are purposefully practicing with them in mind.
Lastly, enjoy your breath, enjoy your body, your alive and well – embody it!