Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

half forward bend (via flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/everydayelsie/406501815/)

Pronunciation: ARD-uh ooh-tuhn-AHS-uh-nuh
Pose Type: Standing fold

Half Forward Bend is a relaxing stretch when practiced correctly. It is included in the typical Sun Salutation sequence and there are many variations that can help yogis who are tight. Ardha Uttanasana is a great way to stretch out the spine and legs throughout the day or after sitting for long periods too. Remember to notice where you’re tight – the hamstrings and lower back are the common culprits – and don’t raise your head too high putting pressure on your neck.

If you can’t easily reach the floor with your knees straight, support your hands on a block instead. This pose focuses primarily on the muscles in the back and is very beneficial for increasingly flexibility in the spine and leg muscles. It is also helpful for abdominal distress and for relieving menstrual pain. Instead of keeping the hands stretched out forward in this posture, you can stretch them outward from the sides of the body to maintain better balance.

Pose Sequence

Ardha Uttanasana is often included in the Sun Salutation sequence – often after Standing Forward Bend or Mountain Pose – and as a lead in to Triangle Pose, Warrior, and Chair poses. Begin in Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana), with hands on or near the floor at each side of the foot:

  1. Inhale and raise the front of your torso away from your thighs and straighten your elbows. Hands remain on the floor or come up onto your ankles or shins.
  2. Lift the collarbone and sternum away from the floor, reaching the crown of the head forward in opposition to your tailbone behind you.
  3. Lift your head slightly to gaze at the floor and keep your torso long and straight.
  4. Engage the quadriceps (the front thigh muscles) and draw them up the legs; keep your knees unlocked.
  5. Bring the weight to the balls of your feet and keep you hips right over your ankles.

Releasing from the pose is usually into a full Standing Forward Fold again before rising into Mountain Pose or lowering into Plank pose.

Benefits of Half Forward Bend Pose

The benefits of this pose include:

  • Strengthening and lengthening the hamstrings and calves
  • Strengthening the back and spine
  • Improves posture
  • Stimulates abdominal organs and belly, improving digestion

Along with other poses, Ardha Uttanasana is part of the sun salutation sequence. In the sequence, this pose teaches yogis to link the breath with the movement.

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By Virginia O'Connor

Co-founder of AudibleYoga.com and writer/content manager.