By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
In Upavistha Konasana, the practitioner sits upright with legs as wide apart as possible – stretched away in a wide angle, grasping the toes with the fingers and leaning forwards. The practitioner sits with wide angle between the legs and with forward bend in the final pose, hence the name.
Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body
Upavistha = Seated
Kona = Angle
Asana = Pose
Upavishta Konasana, is a good preparation for most of the seated forward bends, twists and wide-leg standing poses. This pose stretches leg muscles, strengthens back and improves posture. In this pose you bend forwards such that your torso is between your legs kept wide apart at a wide angle. This pose demands you to keep spine neutral and not curve it too much as you bend. You should focus on lengthening your spine as you lean forward – to avoid pain and discomfort. Your body in this pose gets into a zone of ease and comfort as it provides intense stretch.
Upavistha Konasana is not explained in medieval hatha yoga. It is explained in ‘Light of Yoga (1966)’. It is explained in Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga written by Swami Vishnudevananda in 1960 and is described by the name ‘Hastapadasana – hand-to-foot-pose’. (read more)
Preparation for Upavistha Konasana
- Perform this pose preferably early in the morning on empty stomach.
- If it is not possible to perform this asana in the day time it shall be done in the evening too.
- This pose is performed on empty stomach.
- The bowel and bladder should be kept empty while starting the asana.
- If the pose is taken at some other part of the day other than early in the morning, the practitioner should consume food 4-6 hours before the pose. This will not only keep the stomach empty but also will provide the necessary strength needed to perform the pose.
Read – Ardha Baddha Konasana – Half Bound Angle Pose, How to do, Benefits
Method of doing Upavistha Konasana
Positioning for the Asana
Sit in dandasana i.e. staff pose. The pose also may be taken from easy pose – sukhasana.
Performing and getting to the Upavistha Konasana
Gradually open your legs outwards i.e. bring both your legs widely open in both ways. The legs should make an angle of 90 degree with your pelvis. Lean your torso back slightly on your hands. Lift and open your legs to an angle of 90 degrees. This means to tell that your legs should form an approximate right angle with the pubis.
Press your hands against the floor, behind your hips. Take a full long breath. Slide your butts forward. With this you will be able to lift the sides of your body by making space in the spine. This will enable to extend your legs further. This will further widen your legs by another 10-20 degrees. At the same time it will lift coccyx and spine a little up.
Rotate your thighs outwardly. Outer thighs should rest against the floor and press into it. Your knee caps point towards ceiling. Stretch your soles by reaching out through your heels. Press on the ground through the balls of your feet. Your legs may be maintained in the same posture throughout.
Now keep your toes pointing up towards the ceiling. Do this as you adjust your knees and also flex your feet.
Hold on to this position for couple of moments until you feel a stretch in legs.
By now you should feel a bend in your lower back. (You may use props to create a bend in your back. You may use a firm pad or folded blanket or block underneath your pelvis. This will make tilting your pelvis forwards comfortable. This will provide stability to your pelvis and enable it to tilt forward. It will also help in retaining that lower back curve).
Now bend your lower back sucking your tummy in and as you inhale.
Gradually put hands before you such that your palms rest on the floor. Gradually bring your forearm to the floor. Walk on hands between your legs as forwards as you can, keeping hands parallel to each other. Keep your emphasis on moving from the hip joints. You should work your asana entirely from your hip joints. Your torso is now moving ahead in between your legs. Simultaneously maintain the length of your front torso and keep your spine straight. As you move ahead on your hands, stop intermittently to reestablish the length from your pubis to navel and once again continue forward to whatever length as you can do it comfortably. Bring your chest and face as close to the ground as possible. Rest your chin on the floor and look ahead.
Guide yourself using your breath as you move forward in the pose. Increase your forward bend on each exhalation until you feel comfortable stretch in the back of your legs. This helps you to be aware of your range of your stretch. Stretch your spine as much as you can. Whenever you feel uncomfortable just stop the pose. Don’t push yourself too much and don’t overstrain into it. Breathe long and deep as you hold on to the pose for about a minute or so.
If you cannot bend on to the floor, just avoid doing it. You may place your hand on the floor and bring your forearm to the floor as already said. Now with the help of your elbows pressing gently on to the floor, rest your chin or jaw in the cup of your hands.
Hold in this position as much as you can. Beginners may try to be in this position for 30-60 seconds.
Release from the Asana
Deepening into the pose
After widening your legs apart, instead of placing your hands on the floor and walking on the forward, you may reach out to your feet with both hands simultaneously. Now wrap your fingers around your big toes, with index and middle fingers to be precise. As you lean forward into the bend, pull back on the toes with your fingers. Bend your elbows out to the sides and lift them off the floor as your torso descends into forward bend. If you cannot catch up with your toes, you can hold on to any part of your leg, ankles or shin, till whatever length you can comfortably reach out.
Twisted Variation of Upavistha Konasana
- Turn your torso to the right with an exhalation. Bring your left hand to the outside of your right thigh. Press on it. Your right hand should be on the floor, to the outside of your right hip.
- Gradually move your left hand down along the outside edge of your right leg with series of exhalations. While doing so, press the top of your left thigh into the floor.
- If you are flexible enough, reach the outside of your right foot with your left hand. Make sure not to shorten your right side as you twist to the right and move the hand along the leg. Lengthen the right side of your torso as you continue pressing your right hand against the floor.
- Stay there for a minute.
- At release, exhale and swing your torso to the point of start.
- Return to upright position with an inhalation.
- Repeat all these steps on your left side. (read more)
If bending is really difficult for you, you can bend your knees slightly. You can support your knees with rolled blankets. But you need to keep your knee caps pointing the roof as you move into the forward bend.
- This pose stretches hamstrings and groins.
- Stretches the adductor muscles of the thigh
- Gives a good stretch to the insides and back of your legs
- Strengthens calves, ankle, hamstring muscles, butts, abdomen, spine
- The core muscles are stimulated and belly is toned because of the bending and breathing intervals during the forward bend in the pose.
- Releases the groins
- It activates core muscles.
- It strengthens the supporting muscles of your spine.
- It supports and strengthens back muscles. It improves posture.
- Stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion
- Reduces belly and thigh fat.
- It detoxifies kidneys, prevents kidney disorders.
- Improves kidney and liver functions
- Relieves sciatica and arthritis
- Helps to relieve body and back pain
- Regulates menstrual flow, makes menstrual cycles easy and painless
- This pose makes use of rhythmic breathing. This increases blood flow in the body.
- It enhances blood supply to the nervous system and rejuvenates brain. This in turn enhances the overall functioning of body.
- Calms the mind, relieves worries.
- It promotes awareness about mind and soul.
- Helps to remove stress and anxiety.
Read – Ardha Bhujangasana – Half Cobra Pose, How To Do, Benefits, Dosha Effect
- Baddha Konasana – Bound Angle Pose
- Dandasana – Staff Pose
- Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide legged forward bend
- Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclining bound angle pose
- Supta Padangusthasana – Reclining hand to big toe pose
Follow Up Poses
This pose is a good preparation for most of the seated forward bends and twists and also for the wide leg standing poses. It will also help you to prepare for –
It is very difficult for beginners to bring their torso forward to the floor. When this happens you may implement certain modifications.
Keep a bolster or thick folded blanket in front of you. Exhale as you take the forward bend. Lay your torso on this support.
If bending seems difficult from hips and you are feeling discomfort in your back and bump on your upper back, you may place a support beneath your butts. This will lift your knees off the floor and enable you to bend with comfort.
Supports may also be kept beneath the knee joints or heel.
What time should be spent in the pose while doing Upavistha Konasana?
Upavistha Konasana should be done for 30-60 seconds or for a time period the practitioner feels comfortable to do. This time is suitable for the beginners. Once the pose has been mastered one can extend the time period of the performance.
Impact on Chakras
Upavistha Konasana activates Ajna Chakra i.e. the Third Eye, the Manipura Chakra i.e. Solar / Navel Plexus, the Swadisthana Chakra i.e. the Sacral Chakra and the Muladhara Chakra i.e. the Root Chakra.
Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Upavistha Konasana –
- Herniated disks
- Severe Back, low back, hips, knees, ankle and hamstring injuries
- Tear in your groin or hamstring
- Discomfort or pain in your inner thighs or back of knees while performing the pose
- Recent surgery on back or waist
- Ailments related to spinal column
- High or low blood pressure
- Severe headache
Read – Ayurvedic Management of Inguinal Hernia
Avoid doing this pose in pregnancy.
If you have mild to moderate lower back injury, sit up on a folded blanket and keep your torso upright in relation to the rest of the body.
Impact of Upavistha Konasana on doshas and tissues
Impact on Doshas and its subtypes – Since the pose stimulates and improves digestion and liver functions process it is beneficial for balancing samana vata and pachaka pitta. It is good for kidneys and urinary system, rectifies menstrual irregularities and hence balances apana vata functions. It helps in rhythmic breathing and enhances the blood supply and hence balances udana vata and avalambaka kapha. It rejuvenates the nervous system and hence the overall functions of the body, keeps your mind calm and composed, relieves stress and anxiety. Therefore the asana balances prana vata, sadhaka pitta and tarpaka kapha.
Impact on tissues – Since Upavistha Konasana stretches and strengthens the muscles, groins and the entire body and improves the flexibility of the body and joints of the body, it is beneficial for improving and maintaining the muscle health and also for the channels carrying muscle tissue.