Uttanasana Standing Forward bend

This beautiful image was shared with permission of a talented illustrator Anne Manda

Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana is a gem of a pose to help to awaken your hamstrings and calf muscles. It also helps with flexibility of the pelvis and space for the spine. As it is an inversion, it helps with circulation and gives your discs a breather from the usual pressure of gravity. As well as this the increased blood flow to the head oxygenates the brain which has many benefits including improved alertness and better circulation.

Uttanasana is part of the sun saluatation sequence which is a useful sequence to learn in order to warm up your body before working it into deeper and longer holds. Particularly for the first few it is advisable not to place force, but rather to form a good base and ensure use of correct posture.

Inside the Pose

The muscles that this pose warms up is useful for the rest of the practice as there is engagement of the pelvis and the connection with the spine. Come up slightly through an in breath and bring your pelvis to neutral (which will engage you abdomen) and then draw your shoulder blades down and back, and reach your crown forward (which will lengthen your spine). Keeping this posture, fold again at the hip crease with straight spine and notice the better positioning. Breathe.

As I suggest in some of the other poses, try closing your eyes whilst moving between half and further/full forward bend and allow yourself to experience the subtle sensations in your pelvic and groin region, your feet, your legs, and your spine; and then enjoy the benefits of doing this for the rest of your practice- heightened presence and awareness, and connection with the breath.

If you have been holding the pose for more than a few breaths then have a slight bend in your knees and rag doll your way up vertebra by vertebra – like you’re stacking them one by one on top of each other. If you are doing this pose within the sun salutation sequence then take your arms up as though you are rising taking your first breath in this world, and then enjoy the uplifting energy that comes with rising from this pose. A smile feels good after this pose, because in Uttanasana is a gift that reminds us that we’re ALIVE!

A Few Helpful Hints:

  1. When standing in Tadanasa (Mountain Pose) take a couple of breaths find your neutral pelvis and to stand grounded on the four corners of each foot. Lift the crown of your head.
  2. When folding into the pose, place your hands on your hips at the hip crease (like superwo/man!). Fold forward by pivoting from the groin area – you should be slightly squishing your forefinger depending on hamstring flexibiltiy.
  3. Stop when you feel a bend in your spine and come up slightly so that you have a straight spine. Take your shoulder blades down and towards each other and look at the floor ahead, not your legs.
  4. Stand strong on your feet as though you would not move if some tried to push you.
  5. When you breath in and come up slightly, fill your lungs with a deep breath before breathing out fully on your way back down.
  6. If your hands do not yet reach the floor, either fold your arms and hold your elbows or place your hands on blocks – let gravity do the rest of the work.

Tips to Prevent Injury

Fold only at the hip crease in order to progress towards the full pose without risking injury.

Take Caution If You Have:

  • If you have lower back issues then get some guidance from a good teacher.
  • If you have serious lower back or neck issues please consult a physician about doing this safely.
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Glaucoma

Associated Chakra: Multiple – Mooladhara (Root), Ajna (Third Eye), Sahasrara (Crown)