Standing balance poses can be empowering, yet they require tremendous focus and patience, especially postures where we use our extremities as leverage to support our own balance. The whole beautiful system of the body works in unison—stretching, strengthening, and supporting itself.
Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana, or revolved hand to foot pose, is an excellent place to explore your balance while strengthening your entire standing leg, stretching the hamstrings and IT band of your lifted leg, opening your chest, and building focus and stamina.
First, we'll come into ardha matsyendrasana, half lord of the fishes pose. Take a seat on your mat in easy pose (crossed legs) with your right shin on top. Slide your left foot closer to your right hip so your left knee points toward the front of your mat, and step your right foot over your left thigh, bringing the sole of your right foot to the floor. If this is uncomfortable for your knee, straighten your bottom leg on the mat in front of you. Bring your right hand to the mat behind you and bring your left arm across your body. Depending on the amount of rotation in your torso, either wrap your left arm around the front of your right knee or bend your left elbow and slide it toward the outside of the right knee. Your forearm will be vertical with your fingers pointing up. Root down through your seat and extend your spine upward, finding as much space between your ribs and extension along your spine as you can as you twist. Take a few deep breaths here, focusing on creating even more length in your spine with every inhale (maybe even backing out of the twist a little), and finding a little more twist with every exhale, allowing the body to open gradually rather than forcing the twist.
After a few breaths, rotate your torso back to center. Bring your right hand to the mat next to your right hip. Extend your right leg out in front of you hovering in the air. Keep your left knee bent and your left foot close to your rigfht hip. Take your left hand to the outer edge of your right foot and clasp the foot with your hand. Press out through your right heel as you extend your right leg toward straight. If your hamstrings feel particularly tight, slide a strap around your right foot and grab the strap as close to the foot as possible with your left hand. It's also fine to keep your right knee bent. Feel the extension in your spine as you press your seat into the mat and extend your crown upward. If you feel stable, lift your right hand off the mat and extend it toward the back of your mat. Keep your right arm shoulder height and your palm facing forward (the thumb is pointing up), allowing your chest to open and your side body to "wring out." Gaze straight ahead, or turn your head to look toward your right thumb if that feels comfortable for your neck. This pose is essentially a seated version of our full pose. Therefore it is a great prep pose for the standing version (and also an excellent alternative).
Take a few deep breaths here before returning to neutral and beginning this sequence on the other side.
Now let’s prepare your standing leg to be the powerhouse of this pose. Come to mountain pose, feet hip-width apart, stand strong in your legs, chest broad, gaze forward. Feel all four corners of both feet—the inner and outer heel and the inner and outer edges of the ball of your foot—rooting into the mat. Now focus your drishti (gaze) on an object a few feet in front of you. Shift your weight into your left foot, draw your right knee up in toward your chest and, with both hands, hug your right knee as close to your chest as possible. With your left hand, reach over your right leg, and over the top of your foot for the outer edge of your right foot. Once you make contact, press hand into foot and foot into hand, and with this leverage begin to straighten your right leg any amount. Your right hand can be on your right hip for now.
If you’re finding balance a bit difficult, take this same posture at the wall, standing with the wall close to your right side and your right hand on the wall.
Again, if your hamstrings feel rather tight, just as we did in the earlier seated variation of this pose, wrap a strap around the ball of your right foot to help facilitate more length and opening. For a more gentle version of the pose, simply bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee while keeping the knee bent.
Keep your standing leg strong and straight. While the lifted leg can always be bent, it's important to keep your standing, foundational leg straight. Extend your right arm straight behind you and revolve your torso open so your navel begins to move toward your right hip. Feel the power and strength in your standing leg and bring your awareness back to your standing foot, reestablishing connection in the four corners of your foot. Notice the extension in your spine, the openness through your chest, and the stretch of your hamstring and IT band. If you want to add a bit more of a challenge, take your gaze to the right side or maybe even behind you toward your right hand.
Take a few deep breaths as you stand here in your own power, relying on the strength and openness of your own body to hold you safely and proudly in this strong, dynamic pose. Before embarking on the other side, stand proudly in mountain pose for a few breaths and feel gratitude for your body’s ability to hold you strongly and gracefully in this pose and in this life.
Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana is sometimes called dancing Shiva pose. In Indian mythology, Shiva is the god of both destruction and transformation. The name Shiva comes from a Sanskrit root that means liberation or freedom. Shiva manages to find a blissful state of being amidst constant change and chaos. Dancing Shiva pose provides an opportunity to embody blissful stillness in the midst of a challenge. We remain strong and steady in our foundation while enduring the motion and changes that come in any standing balance pose. We remember to stay playful and lighthearted while remaining grounded in our true nature.
Model is wearing Quench leggings in "Magic Mirror" by Hottie Yoga Wear