Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) is a natural way to stretch the sides of the body. After sitting for long periods, you have probably reached your arms overhead to stretch and awaken your body. This side-bending variation of Upward Salute increases the stretch to the sides of the body, improving balance and coordination.
Benefits of Upward Salute Side Bend
This pose stretches both sides of the entire body, including the torso, thighs, and shins. It opens up the spine, shoulders, armpits, and belly. This pose also tones the thighs, improves digestion, and helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue. Reaching the arms overhead creates space in the chest and lungs, which is therapeutic for asthma and congestion. It also creates space between the vertebrae, which improves posture and helps prepare the spine for deeper stretches and twists.
Standing up and reaching the arms overhead wakes up the body from the fingertips to the toes, providing a boost of energy. It’s a simple way to feel rejuvenated!
My main inspiration… is to be kind and to not have to push and deplete but to use the yoga practice as restoration.
Those with shoulder or neck injuries should avoid raising their arms completely overhead. Instead, practice Mountain Pose or a gentler arm variation (see Modifications & Variations, below). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), standing with your feet together and your arms at your sides. If you have trouble balancing, stand with your feet six inches apart (or wider).
- Draw down through your heels and straighten your legs. Press down evenly across all four corners of both feet. Then lift your ankles and the arches of your feet. Squeeze your outer shins toward each other.
- Activate your quadriceps, drawing the tops of your thighs up and back. Rotate your thighs slightly inward, widening your sit bones.
- Tuck your tailbone slightly, but do not round your lower back. Bring your pelvis to its neutral position and keep your hips even with the center line of your body. Draw your belly in slightly.
- On an inhalation, sweep your arms out to the side and then up overhead. Turn your arms so your palms face each other. Straighten your arms completely, but do not lock your elbows. Interlace your fingers and point your index fingers to the ceiling.
- Exhale as you press your left hip out to the (left) side and bend your upper torso and arms to the right. Keep your feet grounded and your thighs firmly engaged. Lift up and out through the length of your spine and arms.
- Gaze softly forward toward the horizon.
- Relax your shoulder blades down your back, toward your waist. Draw your lower front ribs in — do not let them push forward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Keep your collarbones wide.
- Hold for five breaths, then inhale and come back to center. Then bend to the left, and then come back to center. Exhaling, sweep your arms back down to the sides of the body. Repeat this sequence up to 10 times.
Modifications & Variations
Upward Salute Side Bend can be an easy way to bring a full-body stretch to your day! It's appropriate for yoga students of all levels. Try these simple changes to adapt the pose to your current abilities:
- If it’s difficult to balance with your feet together, stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Gradually step your feet closer together as you gain balance in the pose.
- Women who are pregnant should widen their stances as much as necessary to feel stable.
- To learn how to straighten your raised arms without stressing your shoulders, loop and secure a yoga strap around your upper arms, just above the elbows. Press your upper arms against the strap as you soften your shoulders and neck. Then perform the pose as directed above.
- If your shoulders are very tight, keep your arms as wide as your shoulders (or wider) throughout the pose. If you can keep your arms straight without drawing your shoulders up, then press your palms together and interlace your fingers.
- For a deeper side stretch when your arms are overhead, do not interlace your fingers. Instead, clasp your right wrist with your left hand. Gently bend to the left, keeping your torso facing forward. Then draw your right shoulder back, opening the armpit. Come back to the center and repeat on the other side.
Upward Salute Side Bend helps prepare the body for deeper stretches and twists in yoga. It's a good idea to learn the correct alignment for this pose early in your practice. Keep these tips in mind when practicing this pose:
- Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) provides the foundational alignment for this variation. Thoroughly review the iSport guide, How to Do Upward Salute in Yoga, before practicing this variation.
- Keep your shoulders on the same plane as your hips and ankles. Do not let your upper torso drop forward or too far back.
- Only press your palms together (while your arms are overhead) if you can keep your arms straight without drawing your shoulders up or letting your front ribs poke forward.
- If it’s difficult to straighten your arms when they’re overhead, bring your arms farther apart — shoulder-width distance or wider. Stretch from your inner elbows to your palms to straighten the arms, and then extend through your fingertips. Then perform the side bend.
- Beginners can practice the pose backed up against a wall. There will be a slight curve in the lower back, but the heels, buttocks, and shoulders should gently touch the wall. Hold the head away from the wall, keeping the ears in line with the shoulders.
Stand & Bend
You can practice Upward Salute Side Bend at any time throughout your day whenever you need to stand up and stretch! Regularly integrating this pose into your daily life will help you gain mobility, balance, and energy. It will also help you gain the confidence you'll need to move into more challenging standing and balancing poses in your yoga practice.