Asana Breakdown: Uttanasana

Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold, invites us to look inward and reduce our stress

Uttanasana (OOT-tan-AHS-ahna), meaning “intense stretch or extension” in Sanskrit, is one of the most classic and beneficial postures in our asana practice arsenal.

The practice of forward fold can be utilized in many ways throughout yoga asana, but Uttanasana invites us to stand on two feet, hinging at the hips and bending forward to encourage the chest to melt towards the thighs. Read below for instructions on exploring this posture:

  • Stand in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, by grounding down through the soles of the feet and shining the palms forward with the arms at the side.
Shining the palms forward, stand proudly in Tadasana or Mountain Pose to begin moving into Uttanasana
  • Inhale and extend the arms up toward the sky reaching through the fingertips.
  • Exhale and bend at the hips with a flat back, allowing the chest to melt forward and come into a folded standing position.
  • Depending on your flexibility, allow the hands or fingertips to come to the floor. Honor your body and acknowledge your limits, maybe allowing the hands to come to the thighs. Keep a flat back or take a generous bend in the knees and let the belly fall heavy on the thighs to avoid arching and straining the lumbar spine.
Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold, invites us to look inward while allowing for lengthening and stretching along the back body
  • There are a couple ways to come out of this posture, 1) place the palms on the ground in front of the feet and step back into high plank pose, with the option to move through Chaturanga, or 2) slowly rise back to standing by rolling up the spine one vertebrae at a time, allowing the head and neck to be the last thing to come up as you return to Tadasana.

Benefits: Uttanasana has many benefits. The physical perks include stretching the hamstrings, hips and calves and alleviation of pain and stiffness in the neck and back. The practice of yoga asana is inherently physical but the mental benefits are also abundant. This posture invites us to look inward, cultivating stillness and mindfulness. Uttanasana is a rejuvenating pose, allowing the ease of stress and nerves as we allow the upper body, neck and head to hang heavy and relax down.

Modifications: Standing Forward Fold can be modified based on your level of flexibility and needs by the use of different versions or props. The most important element to remember is to avoid straining the lower back by “reaching” for the ground. Keeping the knees bent and letting the belly rest on the thighs allows this posture to be truly restorative without stressing the lumbar spine.

Utilizing props is also a great way to modify this pose. A great article explains the use of blocks in the posture, as well as others, in “Yoga Blocks: Everything You Need To Know” on RelaxLikeABoss.com. Section 3.4 dives into using blocks in Uttanasana to bring the floor up to you, so as not to disturb the alignment of the spine.

Contraindications: Back injuries or torn hamstring muscle/ligaments (practice with bent knees to reduce stress on these areas and consult your physician or physical therapist before performing if you are injured).

Practicing Uttanasana is extremely beneficial and adding this posture to your daily practice will increase flexibility and reduce stress. If you want to learn more about yoga asana to deepen your practice join us for our WildYoga Immersion, starting October 2nd. During this immersion course we will offer daily asana, meditation, pranayama, philosophy and more in some of the most iconic locations in Yosemite. We will deepen our relationship with the Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space) as expressed through our yoga practice, in our bodies, and by the planet that sustains us. Click here to learn more about his upcoming training and register today!


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