Hands to Feet Pose is one of the few postures in class in which you’re not looking in the mirror to check and adjust your alignment. This means that you need to listen even more carefully and feel what’s happening with your body. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity to strengthen your mind/body connection.
This posture comes relatively early in the class, right after the intensity of the Half Moon Backbend. Move into your first set slowly and carefully, paying close attention to your lower back and hamstrings as they loosen up. Increase the intensity of your pulling on the second set.
Benefits of Hands to Feet Pose:
- Increases flexibility of the spine and sciatic nerves
- Increases flexibility of tendons and ligaments of the legs
- Stretches and creates length in the spine
- Stretches and lengthens the hamstrings
- Strengthens the leg and calf muscles
- Strengthens rectus abdominus, gluteus maximus, oblique, deltoid, and trapezius muscles
- Improves blood circulation in the legs
- Improves blood circulation to the brain
- Decreases heart rate
Tips for Practice:
- Bring your hands onto the floor carefully, especially during the first set, bending your knees as much as you need to.
- The warm-up that you do at the beginning of this posture, bending one knee at a time while your heels remain on the floor is a great chance to check in and see how your hamstrings and lower back are feeling. Use this movement to loosen up. Let your upper body hang down, move your hips, relieve the pressure in your lower back.
- If you are unable to grab your heels from behind, wrap your elbows
as well as you can behind your calf muscles, and grab as close as possible to the heels.
- Work your elbows as far as possible behind your calf muscles; your goal is to make them touch side by side.
- How many times have you heard teachers say, “Stomach on the thighs?” Too many to count, right? You do eventually want to straighten your legs completely, but the compression between your stomach and your thighs takes precedence. This is very important, not only to get maximum front side compression, but to protect your lower back as you pull on your heels. Bend your knees as much as is necessary to create and maintain this compression. If your stomach separates from your thighs as you try to lock your knees, you have straightened your legs too far for your body today. Be patient.
- Chest on your knees.
- Face on the legs below the knees. Drop your head down, and bring your forehead as close as possible to your shins.
- Pull on the heels to lengthen the spine. Imagine that eventually the top of your head will touch the top of your feet.
- Use the strength of your upper body to push your knees back, eventually contracting your thighs.
- Roll the weight forward to the toes, but not too far forward. If you are wondering if you have the weight distributed correctly, ask a teacher to look at your posture during or after class.
- The more you wrap your elbows around behind your calves, the more you’ll be able to lift your shoulders away from your ears (and toward the ceiling because you’re upside down) and vice versa.
- Really pull on your heels. Keep pulling.
- Before you come back up, bring your hands back to the interlocked Half Moon position, and keep your arms with your ears, stomach in all the way up. Stretch up one more time before you lower your arms down to your sides.
— Ellen Olson-Brown, Bikram Yoga Chelmsford