The lightning bolt pose, or utkatasana (pronounced oot-kah-TAH-sah-nah), is a powerful pose. Utkatasana means "raised posture." As you form the shape of a lightning bolt, you are filled with the dynamic energy of lightning. Utkatasana removes shoulder stiffness, strengthens your legs and ankles, lifts your diaphragm, massages your heart, tones your back and stomach, and develops your chest. It also warms up the body.
1. Begin in tadasana, the mountain pose.
2. Bend your knees and lift your arms over your head with your palms together or slightly apart. Be careful to keep your knees from buckling inward; keep your feet together, or slightly apart.
3. Extend your arms so they are in line with your torso. Feel the shape of the lightning and breathe deeply. ZAP!
5. Yoga Adventure: Vary the lightning bolt pose by turning it into a "squat on heels and toes" pose. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Squat, first standing on your toes, then rocking back on your heels. This variation develops the ankles, knees, and arches. Be careful to keep your knees over your ankles. Don't let them droop in or out as you bend. This further strengthens the quadriceps and ankles.
We've emphasized before that balance is extremely important in the practice of yoga. When your body is balanced, a connection is formed between the two sides of your body (ha and tha, as in Hatha Yoga). But balance poses do more than coordinate your left and right sides. They help tie your entire body and mind together into a more integrated and fully functioning whole. Balance poses also increase self-confidence, because they teach you to stay centered, calm, and strong in precarious circumstances. If you accomplished the warrior 3 pose in the earlier section, remember how great you felt? That's just a taste of the power of balance poses.
Vrikshasana: Tree Pose
Vrikshasana (pronounced vrik-SHAH-sah-nah) is one of the most basic balance poses. Vriksha means "tree," and a tree is soundly rooted in the earth but grows upward with branches reaching out to the sun. Wind may move the branches, but the tree stands firm. Vrikshasana tones the legs, opens the hips, and promotes physical balance. It also develops concentration and mindfulness.
Moving into the "squat on heels and toes" pose.
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