Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) (via flickr
Pronunciation: ooh-tuhn-AHS-uh-nuh
Pose Type: Forward bend

In Sanskrit, ‘ut’ means ‘intense’ and the Standing Forward Bend can be just that. This incredibly therapeutic and revitalizing pose calms the mind while stretching the entire back body. This pose is an essential element of the Sun Salutations sequence and helps prepare the yogi for deeper forward bends.

Although it may seem easy to simply bend forward like a rag doll, it’s important to make sure that the front torso stays long in order to not place pressure on your back. When practiced correctly, this pose is an intense stretch, particularly for the hamstrings and lower and upper back.

Pose Sequence

This pose typically starts in Mountain Pose (Tadasana):

  1. Exhale out all the air in your lungs and hinge lightly from the hips to stretch the front torso.
  2. Bend forward, letting the crown of the head hang down. Aim to bring the belly to the front thighs rather than reaching for the ground.
  3. Press your heels into the floor, bring your weight into the balls of your fee, and lift your sit bones high toward the ceiling. Do not lock the knees.
  4. Place your palms or fingertips on the floor beside each foot or use a block to gain that space.
  5. Engage your quadriceps (front thighs) and allow your hamstrings to release. Let your head hang.

To release from the pose, place your hands on your hips and draw down through your tailbone, keeping the back flat as you inhale and return to standing.

Benefits of Standing Forward Bend Pose

The benefits of this pose include:

  • Stress relief and relief from headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety
  • Back body opening through the upper and lower back and hamstrings
  • Deep stretching also relieves tension in the neck and shoulders
  • Stimulates the kidneys and liver and improves digestion

Uttanasana requires patience and practice. It can take along time for a yogi to reach the deepest variation of the pose. Those with back injuries can practice this pose with bent knees, use a block for support under the hands, or substitute Half Forward Bend instead.

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By Virginia O'Connor

Co-founder of and writer/content manager.