How to Do Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

How to Do Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana
Raised Hands Pose - Urdhva Hastasana. Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Upward Salute, Upward Tree Pose, Palm Tree Pose

Targets: Shoulders, full body stretch

Level: Beginner

Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) is a full body stretch that is most often done as part of the Sun Salutation sequence. As such, it sometimes gets short shrift. You may stay in the pose for less than one breath during a vinyasa flow, but it's worthwhile to take the time on your own to explore its benefits more fully.

Benefits

This pose improves posture, strengthens the legs, and provides a full body stretch. If you've ever gotten out of bed in the morning and had a long languorous stretch, that's basically urdhva hastasana. But just as Mountain Pose is a lot more than just standing around, doing raised hands pose correctly requires attention to detail. In push-pull opposition, some parts of the body move down while others move up, taking this stretch to the next level. For instance, the legs below the knee and particularly the feet root down in the ground while the thighs draw up. Similarly, the hands reach up while the shoulders are drawn strongly down. This pose is also the foundation for many other poses, so getting it right can help you build toward more advanced poses.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), inhale to bring your arms out to the sides and up toward the ceiling.
  2. Keep your arms parallel or bring your palms together overhead only if you can do so without hunching up your shoulders. If your palms are apart, keep them facing each other. Your arms should be very straight and your hands active all the way through the fingertips. Take your gaze (drishti) up toward your thumbs.
  3.  Slide your shoulders away from your ears and your shoulder blades down your back. If you feel like your ribs are jutting forward or pulling apart, knit them back together. Keep your thigh muscles strongly engaged so that they draw the kneecaps up.
  4. Lower your arms to release the pose.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this pose.

Locking Your Knees

Your legs should be straight, but don't lock your knees. Keeping a microbend in the knees is a safer position for your joints.

Hunched Shoulders

At first, you may find your shoulders up near your ears. Concentrate on drawing your shoulder blades down and widening your collarbones.

Wide Arms

You won't get a good stretch of your sides if your arms are in V shape away from your body or the elbows are bent.

Banana Back

If your hips are tilted forward and chest rounded outward you will have too much curve in your back. Instead, aim to root your tailbone down and keep your hips square in front.

Modifications and Variations

Use these different ways to do this pose to achieve the right posture and to deepen it once you are ready to progress.

Need a Modification?

If you have any neck problems, do not tilt your head to look up at your thumbs. Instead, keep your gaze level. You may not be able to raise your arms over your head if you have a shoulder or neck injury. In that case, you might instead remain in Mountain Pose.

Pregnant women and those with balance issues should keep a wider stance, whatever feels most stable.

To achieve good posture, practice the pose with your back to a wall so you can feel the alignment as each part of your body stacks up straight.

Place a block between your thighs. Squeeze the block and roll it slightly backward to feel the engagement and rotation of the thighs, including a broadening of the sit bones. Then remove the block and try to replicate the action of rotating the thighs inward.

Up for a Challenge?

Take this posture into a backbend. Imagine your spine draping over a beach ball as you lean back. Let the neck hang back if that's comfortable. Eventually, you may be able to drop all the way back to wheel pose. Practice this near a wall at first, using your hands on the wall to work your way down to the floor.

Safety and Precautions

If you have a shoulder or neck injury that prevents raising your arms over your head, you should avoid this pose. You may feel a good stretch in this pose, but you should not feel any pain. If you feel pain, end the pose.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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