Ardha Uttanasana: Half Standing Forward Bend
An effective stretch for your hamstrings and calves, Half Standing Forward Bend, or Ardha Uttanasana (are-dah oot-tan-AHS-anna), is often used during vinyasa sequences to connect the breath as you flow from one posture to the next. Half Standing Forward Bend is a great pose to practice on its own as well. A gentle way to ease into more intense stretches, Ardha Uttanasana will help your body generate heat while stimulating the navel chakra.
Philosophy + Origin
One of the reasons Ardha Uttanasana is used so much in vinyasa yoga classes is that it positions the body for Chaturanga Dandasana. The alignment found in Half Standing Forward Bend, especially the arched spine, helps to power up the jump back, allowing a safe landing in Chaturanga Dandasana with the legs fully extended and the arms bent. Because it engages the navel and core, it’s a powerful pose for warming up the body, which is why it’s included in warm-up sequences. Despite it’s sometimes transitory nature, the pose engages the navel chakra (Manipura). This can bring the practitioner increased confidence and willpower.
- For students with less mobility in their hamstrings, calves, or lower back, fingertips can be placed on the shins or blocks. Hands can also be placed on a chair or wall.
- If the posture causes pain or discomfort when lifting to halfway, lift a quarter way up instead.
- Bend knees as needed to offer more space for the spine and lower back.
For students with neck pain or injury, don’t look forward. Look down to ease the strain on the back of the neck.
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Serious low back injury or pain
- Neck injury or pain
Although the name of the posture suggests “half,” it doesn’t mean that you must lift half way up. For some, even a quarter lift provides a powerful stretch for the backs of the legs without compromising alignment. When practicing, you should feel as if your spine is lengthening out from your waist. If you feel compression along any part of your spine, consider not lifting as high or bending your knees.
- Begin from Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). The palms of your hands or your fingertips should be resting on the floor or on blocks by your feet. Take a breath in and lift your torso away from your legs, keeping the length in your spine. As you lift up, your elbows will straighten.
- Create an arch in your spine by pushing into your hands and extending through your sternum, lifting it away from the floor and forward towards the top of your mat. If creating this lift in your sternum is too difficult, bend your knees to create more space for the arch.
- Bring your gaze forward without craning your neck so as to keep the head and neck in a comfortable alignment. Hold the lifted pose for a few breaths before exhaling and coming back into Uttanasana.
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- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Prasarita Padottanasana
- Virabhadrasana I
- Virabhadrasana II
- Janu Sirsasana
- Ardha = half
- Uttana = intense stretch
- Asana = pose
- Stretches your hips, hamstrings, calves and lower back
- Strengthens your thighs, knees and back
- Engages your core
- Warms your body
- Improves posture
- Engages the navel chakra, Manipura
- Increases confidence, willpower and self-esteem
“Manipura Bija Mantra”
Connecting to your core and feeling its power in Ardha Uttanasana, recite the bija “RAM.”
MUDRA: Merudanda Mudra
This mudra’s name comes from the mythological Mount Meru. The Sanskrit “Merudanda” can translate to “spine” in English. Using this mudra helps practitioners cultivate emotional and energetic steadiness by bringing balance to the navel manipura chakra. To practice, sit cross legged with your hands resting on your thighs. Make fists with your hands, palms facing each other, and extend your thumbs up.
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