Uttanatavasan Leg Lifts

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Uttanatavasan (pronounced ooh-TAHN-ah-tah-VAH-sahn), leg lifts, involve a steady-pose. They prepare the body to make the more fluid movements of a vinyasa. Leg lifts strengthen your stomach, which in turn supports your lower back. The deeper your breathing during this movement, the easier and smoother your vinyasa will become. Leg lifts also help prepare your body for a headstand. (Remember the headstand in Chapter 15, "Come on, Body, Let's Do the Twist"?)

Be careful not to let momentum swing your legs up during leg lifts. Keep your movements slow and complete to build your strength, touching the ground and pausing before each lift. Don't separate your feet or bend your knees when you come down. If your back hurts, keep one knee bent, foot on the floor, but keep the other leg straight.

If you have a sensitive back, bend the knee you are not lifting and keep that foot firmly on the ground. This will protect your lower back as you continue to strengthen it with leg lifts. Leg lifts build stomach and back muscles.

A single leg lift.

A Yoga Minute

Continuous practice of leg lifts can help alleviate lower back pain. A majority of Americans over 40 suffer from it.

A Yoga Minute

Continuous practice of leg lifts can help alleviate lower back pain. A majority of Americans over 40 suffer from it.

1. Lie on your back. Bend your left leg slightly and press your lower back toward the floor slightly to avoid lower-back strain.

2. Inhale as you straighten your right leg and lift it straight up to the sky. When your leg is perpendicular to the floor, push your heel out.

3. Exhale and slowly lower your leg back down.

4. Repeat this movement on the same side, connecting each repetition with breath: Inhale as your leg goes up, exhale as your leg goes down.

5. After a satisfying number of repetitions (three or four, more if you are up for it), switch to your left leg.

And now for the double leg lift.

1. Begin the double leg lift with your palms facing down and tucked under your tailbone to keep your lower back from rising off the floor. Straighten your arms out underneath you. If you have long arms they may go past the tail-bone, which is fine.

Wise Yogi Tells Us

While flowing through a leg lift, cup your hands over your ears and listen intently to your breath as it connects movement to movement. Is it smooth? Rocky? Does it sound like the ocean? The wind in the trees? Link the rhythm of your breath to the movements of your muscles. Notice everything. Be mindful. Look inward.

4. Do as many lifts as you can, inhaling as your leg goes up, exhaling as your leg goes down. Then rest.

2. Slowly inhale as you bring both legs straight up while you contract your abdominal muscles, pulling them in toward the floor to further support your lower back.

3. Exhale as you bring both legs straight down, keeping your abdominals firmly contracted.

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