How to Do Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Lizard Pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Gecko Pose

Targets: Hips, groin, inner hamstrings

Level: Intermediate

Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana) is a yoga pose that opens up your hips. In Sanskrit, Utthan means to stretch out, Pristha means the page of a book, and Asana means pose. Depending on how flexible you are, Lizard Pose can be intense for your hips. If you're less flexible in these areas, you can use modified versions of the pose.

Benefits

Lizard Pose is a great way to stretch your hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. Strengthening these muscle groups will help you maintain a full range of motion. A slow, deep stretch in these muscles can help alleviate pain, release tension, and prevent injury both in your yoga practice and your everyday life. Strength in your hips and hamstrings, in particular, can improve your balance and flexibility.

The pose also has many mental benefits, including reducing stress, improving focus, energizing creativity, and releasing emotion.

Yoga instructors often recommend the pose to athletes looking to tone various muscle groups. They may also recommend it to people having symptoms related to reproductive health, as the pose promotes activation of the pelvis and lower abdomen.

For those who want to advance in yoga practice, Lizard Pose can prepare you for deeper hip openers such as the Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) and Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana).

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Inhale.
  2. Exhale as you step your right foot to the outside of your right hand. Make sure your foot comes all the way to the front of your mat so your toes are in line with your fingers. Your right knee should be bent and your toes pointed out about 45 degrees.
  3. Inhale as you bring your elbows to the floor with your forearms flat on your mat. Spread your palms out on the floor (use a block underneath the forearms here if necessary).
  4. Keep your head in a neutral position, neither dropping it down nor crooking it up.
  5. Exhale and press into your left heel to keep your left leg active. This will help ensure your hips don't sag toward the floor.
  6. Stay for 5 deep, full breaths.
  7. When you're ready to release from the pose, exhale deeply and straighten your arms so your wrists are under your shoulders.
  8. Inhale and step back to Downward Dog.
  9. Stay in your starting pose for several breaths.
  10. Repeat the steps starting with your left leg forward to ensure the pose is performed equally on both sides.

Common Mistakes

Your Breathing Is Off

As you move through Lizard Pose, go slowly. If you catch yourself holding your breath at any point, pause and refocus. If you're unsure about where to breath or tend to lose track, ask your yoga instructor to show you some breathing awareness exercises.

You're Forcing Your Hips Open

Even though Lizard Pose is an intermediate-to-advanced level pose, that doesn't mean you want to push beyond your body's limits. Especially with hip openers, it's important to listen to your body and go slowly.

While Lizard Pose can provide a deep stretch, you need to safely work up to this level of practice to avoid strain. It may take time and consistent practice for flexibility in your hips to improve. If you're naturally flexible already, you'll need to stay especially focused and controlled to avoid injury.

You're Comparing Yourself to Others

This is a trap you can find yourself falling into no matter what pose you're working on, but it can be especially detrimental when you're working on poses that depend on your unique body and natural flexibility. If you attend a yoga class, you may find yourself looking at others and feeling bad if they seem able to master the pose right away or without modifications.

Remember: With many poses, but especially those such as Lizard Pose, everyone is starting with a different level of innate flexibility and structure to their pelvis. Some people may find Lizard Pose easy from the get-go, while others may need time and dedicated practice to feel its benefits.

Don't hesitate to ask for a modification if you need it. It's far better for your body and overall yoga practice to perform the pose in whatever way is safest and most effective for you than to risk injury by trying to conform to someone else's needs.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If you don't have much flexibility or range of motion in your hips, here are a few tips to modify Lizard Pose:

  • After bringing your right foot forward, you can allow your left knee to lower to the mat if that's more comfortable.
  • If your hips are tight, try using props for support. Use a block under your forearms for comfort. If your back knee feels uncomfortable, add a rolled-up towel or mat underneath it.
  • If coming down to the elbows on a block is still too intense, try keeping your arms straight.

Up for a Challenge?

If you have more flexibility in your hips, try this variation to deepen the stretch:

  1. Inhale. Roll onto the outer edge of your right foot and let your right knee fall open.
  2. Exhale. Drop your left knee to the floor.
  3. Bend your left knee until the sole of your foot is facing the ceiling.
  4. Inhale. Reach your right hand behind your back and take hold of your left foot.
  5. Exhale. Draw your foot toward your butt for an intense quad stretch. You can do this with your left arm straight or on the floor.

As you work on this variation, try using a strap to help you grab your foot to achieve the pose.

For more advanced yoga practice, you can also try the Flying Lizard Pose variation.

  1. Start from Downward-Facing Dog.
  2. As you exhale, step forward with your right foot.
  3. Exhale and move your right arm behind your right leg with the palm of your hand on the floor next to that foot.
  4. Inhale as lift your back (left) foot off the floor.
  5. Pause here for a few deep breaths. Focus and find your balance.
  6. When you're ready, exhale and shift forward, lifting your right foot off the floor.
  7. With your weight now only on your hands, stay balanced here for a few deep breaths.
  8. Exhale and release from the pose in a slow, controlled movement.

Safety and Precautions

As always, it's best to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise class, workout, or yoga routine. Lizard Pose is part of a more advanced yoga practice, so it's worth also consulting with your teacher before trying it on your own.

People with certain conditions, injuries, or those recovering from surgery may want to avoid Lizard Pose. You may want to skip the pose if:

  • You have sciatica or other lower back problems
  • If you have a wrist or hand injury
  • You're recovering from surgery involving your neck, knees, feet, hips, arms, or hands
  • You have instability or weakness in your shoulders, forearms, wrists, or hands

Many yoga poses are safe and can be beneficial during pregnancy. Ask your yoga teacher about modifications, such as props, that can make Lizard Pose comfortable for you in your prenatal yoga practice.

Try It Out

Lizard Pose provides an intense hip stretch on its own, but it's usually part of an intermediate to advanced yoga practice. Lizard Pose may be performed alongside these poses or within particular yoga sequences:

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