Ardha Uttanasana: Half Standing Forward Bend

HalfStandingForward-StephSchwartz

An effective stretch for your hamstrings and calves 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.

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. 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 its sometimes transitory nature, the pose also engages the navel chakra (manipura), which can bring the practitioner increased confidence and willpower.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Place fingertips on the shins or blocks.
  • Place hands on a chair or wall.
  • Bend knees as much as needed to offer more space for the spine and lower back.
  • 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.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Begin in a standing forward bend (uttanasana).
  2. Inhale to reach your chest forward, lengthening the sides of your torso.
  3. Place your fingertips on the ground, or hands to shins.
  4. Bring your gaze to the ground in front of you, neck in neutral alignment.
  5. Hold the lifted pose for a couple breaths before exhaling back to forward fold.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

  • Wide-legged forward fold | Prasarita padottanasana
  • High to mid plank | Chatarunga dandasana

COUNTER POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Ardha = half
  • Uttana = intense stretch
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches your hips, hamstrings, calves and lower back.
  • Strengthens your thighs, core, and back.
  • Warms your body.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Engages the navel chakra, manipura.
  • Increases confidence, willpower, and self-esteem.


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Natarajasana: Lord of the Dance Pose

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Natarajasana (not-ah-raj-AHS-anna) is a physically challenging, beautiful pose that requires flexibility in the spine, legs, and hips. To practice the pose,  use a thoughtful sequence filled with plenty of preparatory poses in order to make sure your body – and mind – are adequately prepared. Regular practice will help develop strong mental fortitude and determined concentration.

Philosophy + Origin

A physical embodiment of King Nataraja, a form of the lord Shiva, lord of the dance pose (also referred to as king dancer pose) is a tribute to this powerful god of destruction. Embracing destruction and even death as part of the cycle of change and growth, this pose is a helpful reminder that no good can exist without evil, no birth without death.

In most depictions of King Nataraja, he is standing on one leg (hence the shape of the pose), gazing over the head of a small dwarf, whose presence represents ignorance. In this way, lord of the dance pose encourages our consciousness to elevate above ignorance, above the common thoughts and misunderstandings that cloud our view. The balance that comes from the pose awakens our understanding that clarity brings steadiness.

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