Asana Saturday: Standing Forward Bend

Sanskrit Name: Uttanasana (OOT-tan-AHA-ahna)

One of the problems (or blessings, I suppose, if you want to go all “glass half full”) with featuring only one asana a week is that there are literally hundreds of choices.  Which pose to pick?  I could choose to focus on interesting and impressive inversions and balances, but to me, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to run before you can crawl.  After starting with a foundational pose like Tadasana, it was only natural to follow it up with Uttanasana.

Much like Mountain Pose, Standing Forward Bend is a seemingly simple pose that can function as part of sequence (it is featured in most Sun Salutations, and is part of my first Simple Sequence), or can serve as bridge linking any number of standing poses.  It’s also a great place to return to after a challenging sequence, a place to release and let go, to let gravity take over and just hang out.  I especially enjoy Uttanasana after standing twists for a good spinal release, or after any intense leg work to help loosen up my hamstrings.  I love feeling the rush to my head and to let my facial muscle relax completely.  In this way, it’s kind of like a very simple inversion and a chance to see the world from a different perspective.

Getting into Uttanasana

Starting in Tadasana, exhale and bend foward from the hips.  Make sure you’re moving your entire torso forward and down as opposed to simply bending at the waist or rounding your back.

Your hamstrings may feel tight as you fold forward.  Resist the urge to pull down with your arms to increase the stretch before you’re ready.  It’s okay to have some bend in your knees; work with where you’re at now and let gravity do most of the work.

Let your hands rest on the ground, palms facing down, either in front of or right beside your feet.  Allow your head to hang between your arms, again letting gravity take over.  Keep your eyes soft and your facial muscles relaxed.

On each exhale, try to release a bit further, allowing your knees to straighten and hips to fold more deeply.  But again, don’t push further than you’re ready to go.  This is a pose of release; no need to hurt yourself here.

When you’re ready to come out of Uttanasana, avoid rolling your spine up.  Instead, work from the strength and length of your torso, pressing your tailbone down as you inhale upwards.  You’re now ready for whatever pose is next in your line up.

Resources:
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
www.yogajournal.com

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