UTTANĀSANĀ (STANDING FORWARD BEND POSE)
- Stand with your feet together, lift your arm up over your head
- Fold forward and bring your hands down next to your feet
- Engage the thighs and lift the knee cap up
- Lift up through the sitting bones
- Stay for 5 breaths
Uttanāsana, also known as a standing forward bend, provides a deep stretch to the back of the legs and the hamstrings. It can be performed both as a soothing-and-relaxing pose, as well as an active deep stretch. It is often used as the third pose in sun salutations.
Start by standing in tāḍāsana, keeping the feet together. Inhale and raise your arms up over your head to elongate the spine. Exhale and bend forward, place the hands next to your feet. If you do not reach the floor with your palms, you can bend your knees until your palms touch the ground and your abdomen touches your thighs. This will help to prevent any strain in your lower back. Even if you can touch the floor with your palms, entering the pose with your knees bent can be beneficial. It allows your hamstrings to stretch a little before coming into the full pose.
Once you are fully set in the pose, engage your thighs and lift the knee caps up. Turn the thighs slightly inward to help elongate the legs and lift up through the sitting bones. Bring the weight forward onto the balls of the feet, without placing any pressure on the toes. Allow the toes to be relaxed and you should be able to comfortably lift them up. Draw the belly in. Keep lengthening the torso with every inhalation, and with every exhalation move deeper into the stretch. Draw the forehead toward your legs. Remain in the pose for at least five deep breaths. To come out, inhale deeply while you slowly come up and raise the arms up over your head.
As a variation, you can also perform a passive version of this pose. Rather than working on elongating the torso down, you can allow the torso to comfortably hang down. You can hold onto the elbows and let it be a resting pose. There are also variations with the hand positions. You can hold on to your big toes, which help to elongate the torso down. Alternatively, you can hold on to the back of the ankles.
One of the benefits of this posture is that it gives a great stretch to the hamstrings, calves and glutes. It also stretches and elongates the spine, which can help in posture correction. With the compression of the abdomen to the thighs, the inner organs receive a mild massage. This may improve digestion and overall functioning of the organs. With the head below the heart, it gets a fresh supply of oxygen with rejuvenating effects. This also can help to improve memory, relief headaches and provide more clarity.
The contraindications for this asana are back injuries. If one has a back injury then bending the knees is necessary to protect the back.
- Stretches the back and neck
- Releases tension from the lower back
- Strengthens wrists and shoulders
- Stimulates the thyroid gland
- Wrist / back / neck injuries to avoid this asana
- Stretches Spinal Erector Muscles
- Stretches hamstrings
- Stretches gastrocnemius
- Stretches gluteus maximus muscle