Standing Forward Bend — Uttanasana (OOT-un-AA-SUN-aa) — is an intense, standing pose that provides a deep stretch along the backside of the body while calming the mind. It can be adjusted to increase or decrease levels of intensity in the hamstrings. The pose gets its name from the Sanskrit words, Ut, meaning intensity, tan, meaning to stretch or extend, and asana, meaning pose
Level of difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate
Step-by-step instructions for Uttanasana or Standing forward bend
Contrary to popular belief, Uttanasana or Standing forward bend is not just about touching your toes.
- Start by standing in Tadasana or Mountain pose and balance your weight equally on both feet.
- Breathing in, extend your arms overhead.
- Breathing out, bend your knees slightly and fold your torso over your legs down towards your feet, hinging from the hips, not the lower back.
- Keep your hands resting either on the floor, beside your feet or on your legs wherever they reach.
- Inhale and extend your chest to lengthen your spine.
- On an out breath, move your chest towards your knees without rounding your back. Lift your hips and tailbone higher, without hyperextending your knees. Lift the kneecaps and gently spiral your upper, inner thighs back.
- Let your head relax and move it gently towards your feet.
- Stay in the posture for 20-30 seconds and continue to breathe deeply.
- Breathing in, stretch your arms forward and up and slowly up to a standing position.
- Breathing out, bring the arms to the sides.
Hinge forward from the crease at the front of the hips, moving the pelvis and sacrum together, to protect the lower back.
Benefits of Uttanasana or Standing forward bend
This standing forward fold is a great pose for counteracting backbends. When practiced correctly under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher, the posture can help relieve back stiffness.
- Stretches the muscles on the back of the body
- Invigorates the nervous system by increasing circulation
- Increases blood flow to the brain
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Tones the abdominal organs like liver and kidneys
- Calms the mind, help relieve stress
Proper technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of any yoga pose. If you have a previous or pre-existing health condition as listed below, consult your physician before practicing this pose and you may modify it based on your individual needs.
- Back injuries
- Hyperextended knees
Modifications and variations
Using the blocks: If knees are hyperextended or in pain or If reaching your fingertips or palms to the floor is too challenging, keep the knees in microbend position. Try using blocks near you and rest your hands on the blocks.
Ragdoll pose: From the forward folding position, grab opposite elbows and sway back and forth gently. Nod your head up and down, then shake it back and forth, from left to right. This variation is especially beneficial for releasing stiffness in the back.
Ardha Uttanasana (halfway lift): Inhale and engage your abdominal muscles, flatten your back, and fold halfway as you exhale. This action will give you more length in your spine. On next exhalation, release further into a forward fold if you are able to.
Preparatory and follow-up poses
- Mountain Pose | Tadasana (Preparatory)
- Downward-Facing Dog | Adho Mukha Svanasana (Preparatory)
- Standing Forward Bend With Feet Apart | Prasarita Padahastasana (Follow-up).
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While learning and practicing yoga can result in improved health, know that it is not a substitute for medical treatment. In the case of a medical condition, practice yoga after consulting a doctor.
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