SANSKRIT: Ustrasana (oosh-TRAHS-anna)

DESCRIPTION: From a kneeling position the knees are hip width apart and the thighs are perpendicular to the earth. The inner thighs are narrowed and rotated slightly inward with the buttocks engaged but not hardened. The tailbone is tucked under but the hips do not puff forward. The shins and tops of the feet are pressed firmly into the earth. The ribcage is open, along with the heart center, but the lower front ribs do not protrude sharply towards the sky. The lower back lifts the ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. The base of the palms are pressed firmly against the soles (or heels) of the feet and the fingers are pointed toward the toes. The arms are extended straight and are turned slightly outward at the shoulder joint so the elbow creases face forward without squeezing the shoulder blades together. The neck is in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or (for the advanced practitioners only) the head drops back. Be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat. The gaze is either towards the sky or towards the earth, depending upon your flexibility.

BENEFITS: Stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest, and throat. Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas). Strengthens back muscles. Improves posture. Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck.