Standing Knee Hug is a balancing yoga pose that stretches the hips, low back, and hamstrings. It is a variation of the intermediate yoga posture, Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) that is suitable for students who aren't yet flexible or strong enough for it.
Standing Knee Hug is a good preparatory position for other one-legged balances, such as Tree Pose (Vrksasana) and King Dancer Pose (Natarajasana), but it has many benefits of its own. Keep reading to learn more!
Benefits of Standing Knee Hug
Standing Knee Hug strengthens and tones the thighs, calves, and ankles. It stretches the hamstrings, hips, and low back. It can also be therapeutic for lower-back pain, and it improves balance and equilibrium. The concentration and focus required to hold the pose also helps to calm your mind, which results in relief from stress and anxiety.
Just for the moment, forget what you believe you can't do.
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic ankle or low back injury. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet together and arms at your sides.
- Relax your breath and your body. Gaze softly at a fixed spot ahead of you.
- Shift your weight to your left foot. Place your left hand on your hip. Moving very slowly, draw your right knee up toward your chest. Hug your knee into your chest with your right hand.
- Straighten your spine. Strongly engage the muscles of your left leg and your abdominals. Straighten your left leg, but do not lock your knee.
- Drop your right hip slightly, so it is in line with your left hip.
- Keep both hips squared forward and keep your spine straight. Drop your shoulders away from your ears.
- Hold for 5-20 breaths. To release, slowly lower your foot to the floor. Come back to Mountain Pose. Stand still for a few breaths and re-focus. Repeat on the opposite side for the same amount of time.
Modifications & Variations
Standing Knee Hug can provide relief from tight legs and a sore lower back when practiced in correct alignment. Try these simple changes to find a variation of the pose that works for you:
- If you are unable to hold your knee with only one hand, clasp both hands around your knee.
Students with larger bodies or less flexibility might find it difficult to reach the raised knee. To remedy this, wrap a around the knee of the raised leg and hold both ends of the strap in the same-side hand. Keep the opposite hand on the hip for balance.
- To support the lifted leg as you gain strength and flexibility, rest your raised foot along the top edge of a stair, stack of heavy books, or another secure, flat surface.
- If you are very unsteady, try practicing the pose with your back against a wall for extra support. Alternatively, you can place a chair next to the standing-leg side of your body and rest your hand on the back of the chair (instead of your hip) for extra support.
In order to fully gain the benefits of Standing Knee Hug, it's important to stay focused and calm, while still maintaining alignment. Here are a couple of tips to help you stand tall with grace and ease:
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana) provides the structural foundation for Standing Knee Hug. Thoroughly review the iSport guide, How to Do Standing Mountain Pose in Yoga, before practicing this pose.
- Work the pose from the ground up. Align your feet first, then your legs, torso, and arms. Finally, extend the pose through the crown of your head.
- To help with balancing, bring your awareness to the center line of your body — the vertical line that runs directly through the center of your head, neck, and torso.
- Although regular practice of Standing Knee Hug will tone the abdominal muscles, weaker abdominal muscles can make it difficult to balance. Add core-strengthening poses into your practice to help with balancing. A few good ones to try are Boat Pose (Navasana) and Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana).
You Deserve a Hug
Standing Knee Hug has many benefits for your mind and lower body. Practicing this pose regularly will also help prepare your mind and body for more challenging hamstring stretches and balancing poses. Remember to take it slowly. If balancing is difficult and you get frustrated, ease up a bit and practice some other poses to clear your head. Then come back to Standing Knee Hug and try again. With patience and dedication, you'll gain all of the benefits this pose has to offer.