Uttanasana | Standing Forward Bend
ut = intense
tan = to stretch or extend
Type of Pose: Standing, Inversion
•Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
•Stimulates the liver, spleen and kidneys
•Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
•Strengthens the thighs and knees
•Reduces fatigue and anxiety
•Relieves headache, migraine and insomnia
•Improves digestion, relieves stomach ache.
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Relieves abdominal and back pain during menstruation
• Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
•Osteoarthritis of the knees
•Scoliosis or excessive curvature of lumbar spine
•Back injury: Do this pose with bent knees, or perform Ardha Uttanasana (ardha= half), with your hands on the wall, legs perpendicular to your torso, and arms parallel to the floor. For slipped discs or other spinal disorder: forward bend to the point of having a flat back. Don’t put the head between the knees.
•Dizziness or Acidity: Place feet hip width apart
Uttanasana Step by Step
1. Stand in Tadasana, hands on hips (feet together or hip width distance apart). Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you descend draw the front torso out of the groins and open the space between the pubis and top sternum. As in all the forward bends, the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso as you move more fully into the position.
2. If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs slightly inward.
3. With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates almost imperceptibly with the breath. Let your head hang from the root of the neck, which is deep in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.
4. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Uttanasana can be used as a resting position between the standing poses. It can also be practiced as a pose in itself.
5. Bring the hands back onto the hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso. Have a micro bend in the knees for coming up. Press the tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.
Beginner’s Tip: If a student cannot touch the ground, hold onto the backs of the legs wherever the hands fall (except for the knees) or cross the arms in front of the body holding onto the elbows. Let the head hang with gravity. If this is still too intense, take tension off the hamstrings and low back by bending the knees. Working with the breath, try “inhaling, bending”, “exhaling, straightening”. Deepen the Uttanasana pose to increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book or lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, and then, from the height of the groins, lengthen your heels back onto the floor.
Misalignments: Watch for students leaning back into the hamstrings. Legs should be perpendicular (90 °) to the floor with the weight slightly more into the toes.
Teaching Tip: If a student is having difficulty folding deeply into the Uttanasana pose, massage the lower back on both sides, a few inches away from the spine.