The Uttanasana yoga pose, also known as the standing forward bend, is a pose that allows the entire body to stretch. This particular pose can be adjusted to suit your fitness level, meaning that you can increase or decrease the intensity felt in your hamstrings. Depending upon where you’re at in your yoga journey, you can choose to do more intense Uttanasana poses or more relaxed Uttansana poses. Either way, you’re sure to get a great yoga workout in by introducing this pose into your daily yoga practice.
There are quite a few standing forward bend benefits you can expect from implementing this stretch into your yoga practice. These include:
- Calming and soothing the nervous system
- Relieving mild depression & anxiety
- Allowing for better sleep
In addition to these benefits, a variation of Uttanasana called Ardha Uttanasana can stimulate abdominal muscles, strengthen the muscles in your back, improve your posture, and help to stretch out your front torso.
Standing Forward Bend Muscles Used
Since Uttanasana is a full-body stretch, many different muscles are used when practicing this pose, but there is a heavy focus on the following muscles:
- Back muscles
- Abdominal muscles
How To Do Standing Forward Bend Pose
There are many forms of the standing forward bend pose or Uttanasana. It’s important to note, though, that Uttanasana is a forward fold yoga pose that relies heavily on lower back and hamstring mobility. In addition, an active spine is needed for this pose.
The steps to perform a basic Uttanasana pose are as follows:
- Stand in a Tadasana pose by placing your feet slightly apart.
- Use both of your feet to equally balance your weight.
- Extend your arms overhead while breathing in.
- Bend forward toward your feet while breathing out, keeping your back flat.
- Deeply breathe while remaining in this pose for 20 to 30 seconds.
- With your legs and spine erect, rest your hands beside your feet or on your legs.
- As you breathe out, extend your chest toward your knees while lifting your tailbone and hips higher.
- Continue with the deep breaths while allowing your head to relax and move toward your feet.
- While breathing in, allow your arms to stretch forward and up.
- Slowly move into a standing position.
- As you breathe out for a final time, allow your arms to move to your sides.
Congratulations! You have done a basic Uttanasana pose.
But what about modifications and variations?
Modifications to the Standing Forward Bend Pose
If you’re looking to introduce Uttanasana to your yoga practice, you should exercise caution if you have back injuries, spondylitis, or hyperextended knees. In this case, you may want to speak to your healthcare provider before practicing Uttanasana.
For those experiencing pain, you can modify the Uttanasana pose by hyperextending your knees.
Another modification, this one for the Ardha Uttanasana pose, is to stand in a mountain pose, stretch your arms overhead, bend your knees and place your hands onto the floor in front of your feet. While looking forward, allow your core to become engaged.
There are also preparation poses that will help prepare you to do Uttanasana.
These preparation poses include, but are not limited to:
- Extended hand to big toe fold
- Downward facing dog
- Bound angle
- Halfway lift I
- Squat leg extended
Variations of the Standing Forward Bend Pose
Just like there are modifications to the Uttanasana, there are also variations you can do to keep things interesting and to work on other areas of your body.
Variation 1: Ardha Uttanasana
- Once again, stand in the Tadasana pose while facing the wall.
- Next, firmly press all four corners of your feet against your yoga mat.
- At hip height, put your hands against the wall with your fingers spread.
- With your feet spread hip-width apart, step back and lower your torso.
- Continue to lower your torso until you have reached a flat back position.
- Keep your ears and upper arms in line.
- Press down through all the corners of your feet.
- Guide your outer calf muscles backward while pressing the top of your shinbone down into the heel, allowing the backs of your knees to open up.
- Move your inner and outer thighs and both sides of your pubic bones, allowing the top of your front thigh to press onto the thighbone, lengthening your lower back.
- Use the wall to press the mound of your index finger and thumb.
- At this point, you should be able to feel your scapula, or shoulder blades, moving down along your spine and toward your ischium bones
- As this happens, you'll begin to feel your scapula's bottom tip against your back ribcage, your lower sternum will lift into the diaphragm and the front and back of your body should become even in length
- Take smooth, even, and long breaths.
- When you’re ready to come out of this pose, bend your knees, guide your feet toward the wall, and lift your body upright
- Allow your hands to come to your sides, and stand in the Tadasana pose once more.
- Breathe naturally.
Congratulations, you have completed the Ardha Uttanasana!
Variation 2: Padahastasana
- To begin, stand in an erect position and situate your feet 3 or 4 feet apart.
- Ensure that your feet are both grounded firmly and balanced.
- Begin taking gentle deep breaths.
- As you inhale, allow your spine to elongate and stretch your arms out overhead.
- As you exhale, bend forward at the hips, maintaining a straight spine.
- Allow your hands to drop to the floor, underneath your shoulders.
- Breathe gently, inhaling and exhaling.
- While lifting your hips, bend further while breathing out.
- Bring your head toward the floor and between your hands.
- Allow your thighs to separate.
- Move your feet further apart, if you can do so while maintaining your balance.
- As you exhale, firmly press your hands into the floor while you deepen the bend.
- If possible, take hold of your big toes, pulling them to come into a deeper bend.
- Breathe in and allow your arms to stretch to the front, lifting up slowly.
- Breathe out, bringing your arms to your sides.
Well done, you have finished the Padahastasana!