Uttanasana: Standing Forward Fold
Up next in our “Highlight on…” series is Uttanasana (standing forward fold).
The Sanskrit word Uttanasana is made up of ut (intense, powerful, deliberate), tan (stretch, extend, lengthen), and asana (posture) – so it’s the intense stretch pose, or the deliberate lengthening pose (I prefer this one). We could, theoretically, call many yoga postures by these names, so ‘standing forward fold’ makes the most sense, but do try to think of lengthening deliberately.
Uttanasana is a stretch of the entire back body, from the soles of the feet, all the way up to the head. It spans the backs of the legs, the lower, middle, and upper back, and the neck. When you fold forward in Uttanasana, you stretch this entire sheath of muscles and connective tissue. Uttanasana with generously bent knees can feel great after long periods of sitting or inactivity.
We’ll build the pose from the previous pose, Urdhva Hastasana:
- Exhale, bring the palms to touch at the center of the chest as you begin to fold forward
- Hinge from the hips; lead with the chest (keep the back flat)
- Bend the knees as much as you need as you fold to protect the hamstrings and the lower back
- Relax the neck (maybe shake the head ‘yes’ and ‘no’ a few times)
- Options for the arms:
- Rest the palms or fingertips on the ground in front you, or next to your feet
- Rest the palms or fingertips on blocks (or books) in front of you, or next to your feet
- Hold on to opposite elbows and use the added leverage to create traction in the spine (maybe sway side to side gently)
- Reach the arms behind the back and clasp the hands together; pull the shoulder blades towards each other to open the shoulders
Benefits of Uttanasana:
- Stretches hamstrings and back
- Alleviates anxiety
- Relieves headaches
- Improves digestion
- Quiets the mind