Arm Variations

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)

Upward Raised Hands Pose

Level: All levels
Category: Arm Variation

Urdhva = Upward. Hasta = Hand.

Once you raise the arms up above the head, it becomes immediately necessary to address the shoulders, even if your shoulders are flexible. Breaking out the action of raised arms here in simple poses such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Virasana (Hero Pose), Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) or Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose) will enable you to begin softening and opening up the shoulder girdle before engaging in poses where the arms bear weight.

Organizing the Pose

    • Keeping the arms parallel and the palms facing each other, inhale and raise the arms out in front of you up to shoulder height and then up alongside the ears.
    • Hold the position for several breaths.


The following variations will help you to stretch the arms while also softening the shoulders, allowing the arms to extend more easily out of the sides. The more you can do this, the less the expression of the body’s energy will be arrested by gripping the shoulders and neck muscles.

Thumbs Interlocked

    • From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), link the thumbs and stretch the arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
    • Pull the thumbs out against each other and away from the chest to stretch the arms.
    • Keeping the shoulders soft and neutral, pull the thumbs up off the chest and bring the arms up alongside the ears.
    • Change the interlock of the thumbs, bringing the other thumb on top, and repeat.

Arms belted

In this variation we introduce the use of a key prop, the belt, to help support the stretch of the arms. This becomes even more useful and important in poses such as Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Full Arm Balance), where the arms are bearing weight.

    • Take a belt and make a loop out of it that is shoulder width or a bit smaller. (Having the loop a bit smaller will give you a little extra to press out against. Although this closes the shoulder girdle somewhat, it will make it a little easier to stretch the arms.)
    • Bring the arms up to shoulder height and press out against the belt loop to stretch the arms.
    • Without losing the stretch, soften the shoulders and settle them back and down to a neutral position so that they are not up around the ears.
    • Reach the arms up alongside the ears.

Practice Points

    • Keep the shoulders stacked up over the hips and in standing poses, the hips over the heels.
    • Keep the back ribs broad. Prevent the front ribs from poking forward.
    • Broaden the tops of the shoulder blades.
    • Move the armpits down while you move the arms up.
    • Let go of the need to bring the arms all the way up alongside the ears if it means jutting the ribs forward.