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Wide Seated Forward Bend Pose: Upavistha Konasana


A great foundation for many seated poses, Upavistha Konasana (oo-pah-VEESH-tah cone-AHS-anna), or Wide-Seated Forward Bend pose, is also a great stretch on its own. A soothing way to stretch your hamstrings and groins, this seated pose will also strengthen the supporting muscles of your spine, improving your posture and promoting ease and comfort in your body.

Philosophy + Origin

Wide-Seated Forward Bend pose offers two very different experiences for most people. First, there’s the group of students who love the pose, who can stay in it completely relaxed with minimal effort. Then, of course, there’s the second group, who are immediately confronted with discomfort, irritation, and loads of negative self-talk and disbelief. In either camp, the experience of the posture is meant to be educational and, yes, transformational. Staying present in the pose, working with the breath to adjust the body and mind, is where the practice of yoga really comes into play.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

  • Use a rolled blanket or bolster under your knees for extra support or if you are unable to straighten your legs completely while seated
  • Place a folded blanket under your sit bones to help encourage your pelvis to tip forward and to prevent rounding in your spine
  • Place a bolster in front of you, in between your legs, to rest on to lessen the intensity or to practice a more restorative version of the pose
  • Use a strap around the soles of your feet to deepen the stretch while maintaining length in your spine.
  • Sit against a wall to support your spine

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS

  • Low back pain
  • Sacroiliac pain
  • Pregnancy

TIPS

Rather than thinking of Camel pose as a big backbend, approach the pose with a heart-opening intent. For alignment purposes, avoiding the desire to go back farther will help to keep your body safe and comfortable. Instead of reaching or going back as you deepen the pose, find depth from lifting your heart up more. To do this, pay attention to the way you integrate your shoulders into the posture, firming your shoulder blades into the back ribs.

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Begin by kneeling at the top of your mat. Separate your knees so they are hip width apart (about two fists). Your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor, your shins and feet in line with your knees. Begin to slowly rotate your inner thighs back (you can learn this action by placing and squeezing a block between your thighs), but be sure to keep your glutes soft as you do.
  2. Place your hands, with your fingers pointing down, on your lower back/sacrum. Guide your tailbone down and then forward slightly toward your pubic bone — do not overemphasize this action. Keep pressing your thighs back as you use an inhale to start lifting your heart up. Find extension through your heart by bringing the shoulder blades down and into your back ribs.
  3. Begin to lean back without dropping your head. Keep your chin in close to your sternum. With your hands still on your sacrum, find more depth by continuing to draw your shoulders together, focusing on length and extension of the pose rather than depth. Once you’ve extended as far as you can, try reaching back with one hand at a time to find your feet. Your hands will rest on your heels if your toes are tucked. Otherwise, they will rest on the soles of your feet. If you can’t reach your feet without compressing your spine, feeling pinching, or losing the lift in your heart, keep your hands on your sacrum.
  4. Draw your front ribs in to keep your belly soft and your spine long. Lift your pelvis up as you focus on lengthening, especially in the lower back. Use your hands against your feet to lift more through your heart and sternum with each inhale. At this point, you can choose to drop your head back or to keep your head supported with the neck in a more neutral position.  
  5. Hold Camel pose for up to 60 seconds. As you leave the pose, return your hands to your pelvis and use an inhalation to come up, pushing the hip points down for support. Lead with your heart, head coming up last. Take a few breaths to rest in an easy neutral pose, such as Virasana or a kneeling pose.

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PREPARATORY POSES

  • Bhujangasana
  • Dhanurasana
  • Salabhasana
  • Setu Bandha
  • Supta Virasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • Virasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES

  • Dandasana
  • Sarvangasana
  • Sirsasana
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana
  • Virasana

SANSKRIT

  • Ustra = camel
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Stretches your front body, especially the neck, chest, abdomen, thighs, hip flexors, groins, and ankles
  • Strengthens the muscles in the back body, especially the back, glutes, and triceps
  • Stimulates the internal organs in your abdomen by providing a gentle massage
  • Improves overall posture

ENERGETIC BENEFITS

  • Stimulates energetic centers in the body, primarily the chakras located in the navel, heart, and throat

MANTRA

“Yam”

The seed mantra for the heart is “yam.” Reciting this simple yet powerful mantra will encourage your heart to open and balance with your other energy centers.

MUDRA: Hridaya

To practice this heart chakra mudra, bring your index fingers to the base of your thumbs. Press the tips of your middle fingers and ring fingers to the tips of your thumb. The pinky fingers extend straight up. Allow your hands to rest in your lap or on your knees with the palms of your hands facing up.

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