Leg Raises

Leg Raises or Utanpadasana are simple exercises used to warm up the body and prepare it well for other yoga poses or asanas. Both, Single Leg Raise and Double Leg Raises help strengthen the muscles of the stomach and lower back.

Since strong abdominal and back muscles are essential for yoga poses such as Headstand or Shoulder Stand, leg raises are a necessary addition to any yoga routine.

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Steps :

  1. In this series, one leg is raised while the other remains flat on the floor. At first you can push down with your hands to help lift your leg. Once your muscles are stronger, leave your hands and palms up your sides. Keep both knees straight and press your lower back down to the floor to straighten the spine.
  2. Lie on your back while your arms are placed by your sides.
  3. Inhale and slowly raise the right leg as high as you can without bending at the knee.
  4. Press your lower back down to the floor to help keep the spine straight.
  5. Now clasp your right leg with both hands and pull it gently towards you and continue to keep your head down.
  6. Make sure that you breathe normally throughout this time.
  7. Slowly lift your head to your leg and raise your chin to your knee and hold the pose for one breath.
  8. Exhale slowly, place your head back on the floor, and lower the leg back. Repeat the exercise using the left leg.
  9. Do this using each leg three times.

Steps for Double Leg Raises :

  1. Lie flat on the floor and place your arms to the sides.
  2. Draw your tummy muscles into your spine.
  3. Inhale and raise both legs off the floor.
  4. Make sure your knees are straight and your buttocks are still on the floor.
  5. Hold the pose for a few breaths.
  6. Exhale and lower your legs to the floor once again.
  7. When lowering your legs, make sure that your back remains flat on the floor.

  8. Start with five raises and slowly increase the work up to ten raises at a time.

Precautions :

  • Avoid leg raises if you have neck or back problems, as there is a tendency to put undue pressure on the neck and lower back and cause further injury.
  • If you have weak muscles or have not exercised before, there is tendency to arch your lower back or use your shoulder and neck muscles to lift your legs instead of the stomach muscles.
  • To ensure that you are working out the correct muscles, always keep the full length of your back on the floor and consciously keep your neck relaxed throughout the pose.

Beginner’s Tip :

  • When practicing the Single Leg Raise, as a beginner, you can push down with your palms to help lift your leg off the floor. This also prevents the back from arching.
  • Many beginners may find the Double Leg Raise a little difficult, as the stomach muscles are not strong enough to hold the pose for long. If this is the case, you can start with only Single Leg Raises and slowly work your way up to Double Leg Raises as your stamina increases.
  • Keep your back flat against the floor as you raise your legs. This will help prevent any injury to the lower back or spine.
  • You can bend your knees slightly as you raise your legs but straighten them out once they are up.
  • If you have exceptionally weak stomach muscles, interlock your fingers and place them over your abdomen. These then work as an extra set of ‘stomach muscles.’ As you raise your legs, press your fingers down for an extra burst of strength.

Benefit to Body Part :

  • Tones and strengthens leg muscles
  • Stretches the hamstrings
  • Strengthens the lower back
  • Tones stomach muscles
  • Reduces belly fat
  • Massages the organs of the abdomen

Therapeutic Applications :

  • Improves digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of toxins from the body.
  • Helps in weight loss
  • Improves the alignment of the spine
  • May help balance out sugar levels and treat diabetes.

Variations :

  • If you find it difficult to keep the leg straight during a Single Raise, you can keep the other leg bent with the foot on the floor.
  • If you can lift both your legs easily in the Double Leg Raise, try to lower them as slowly as possible. Lower them in stages stopping at 60 degrees and 30 degrees before holding them an inch of the floor. To make the pose even tougher and really work out the stomach muscles, do not rest both legs on the floor in between reps. Rather hover both legs an inch off the floor before raising them up again.

Preparatory Poses :

  • Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
  • Warm up poses such as neck exercises, shoulder lifts, eye exercises,
  • Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)
  • Single Leg Raise
  • Double Leg Raise

Follow-up Poses :

Yoga PosesFind Pose
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