People who have never practiced yoga before often ask me to teach them a yoga pose. The Iyengar student in me cannot help but start by teaching Tadasana. People are often astounded by how much integrity and poise there is when conscious attention is brought to the simple act standing. They are amazed at how much attention can be brought to the four corners of the feet, the inner line of the legs, the lift of the knee caps and the release of the tailbone. Once we build the foundation. we move to the upper body and take a deep inhale to engage the abdomen, lift the sternum and lift and roll the shoulders back. After a few deep breaths, folks are usually smiling and inevitably ask for more. And the more I usually offer is the simple act of raising the arms over the head in Urdhva Hastasana, Upward Arms/Hands pose.
We extend through our finger tips, palms facing the body and on an inhale, draw the arms first to shoulder height and ensure that the shoulder blades are drawn into the body, which helps to lift the chest. Exhale here and then on an inhale draw the arms over the head, palms facing each other. After a few breaths here, people are surprised by how invigorated they feel. Finally, we turn the palms towards the back of the body to feel the rotation of the outer upper arms inwards. Keeping this rotation of the outer upper arms carefully turn the palms back towards the center line of the body. Again after a few more breaths we slowly lower the arms back down by the sides of the body on an exhale.
These simple actions are often enough to convince people of the benefits of the yoga and I can direct them to an upcoming yoga class or download in our store. For a beautiful demonstration of Urdhva Hastasana, watch Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher John Schumacher, teaching from his home studio in Bethesda.
Listen to the Pronunciation of Urdhva Hastasana. Courtesy of the Online Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide. [audio:http://www.ihanuman.com/media/audio/Sanskrit/Asanas/urdhvahastasana.mp3]