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Uttanasana: Standing Forward Bend


A soothing posture for body and mind, uttanasana (OOT-tan-AHS-ahna), or standing forward bend, is straightforward but far from simple. Requiring flexibility in hamstrings, hips, and calves, uttanasana also requires patience. Watch the ebbs and flows in your body and life reflected in this simple posture.

Philosophy + Origin

In uttanasana, knowing when to accept intensity and when to be content with where you are is key to steady progress without injury or frustration. It’s easy to try to push for more — with uttanasana, this means wanting to be more flexible or pushing further into the pose. Rather than struggling, use the posture to practice santosha (contentment). Can you accept both the intensity and your capacity right now?

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Separate your feet to give your hamstrings room — keep your feet parallel.
  • If your back is uncomfortable in this shape, practice with knees bent.
  • If the ground seems far away, place your hands on blocks.
  • To deepen the posture, hold onto the backs of your ankles or grasp opposite forearms behind your calves.
  • To deepen the stretch at the backs of your legs, elevate the balls of your feet with a rolled mat or blanket

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Lower back pain or injury.
  • Hamstring injury.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Third trimester pregnancy.

TIPS:

Place a block between your inner thighs before moving into this posture. In uttanasana, squeeze the block and imagine sending the block back behind you. Now try uttanasana without the block and see if you can feel the same internal rotation of the thighs that you just found with the block.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Start standing with your hands on your hips. Exhale to hinge from the hips and bend forward. Think about creating as much length as possible from your hips to your head.
  2. Release your fingertips toward the ground or your blocks.
  3. Root down into the four corners of your feet.
  4. Release the back of your head and neck.
  5. On inhales, feel your torso lengthen, and on exhales, feel your chest reach toward your toes.
  6. Stay in uttanasana for up to one minute.
  7. To exit the pose, return your hands to your hips and slowly lift up, keeping the length in the front and back of your torso.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Ut = intense
  • Tan = to stretch
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches hips, hamstrings, calves.
  • Strengthens thighs and knees.
  • Massages internal organs.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Removes mucus from the lungs.
  • Reduces headaches.
  • Improves sleep.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Calms and soothes the mind.
  • Reduces fatigue and anxiety.
  • Relieves stress.
  • Combats depression.

MANTRA:

“Om Mani Padme Hum”

This foundational Tibetan Buddhist mantra is used to alleviate stress and anxiety. Chant or recite the words aloud or internally to cultivate positive, compassionate energy in your heart and mind.

MUDRA: Shuni Mudra

Use this mudra to purify and clear your emotions and thoughts. Bring the tip of the middle finger to the tip of the thumb. Straighten and extend the other three fingers.

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