The Sanskrit word Uttanasana (ooh-tuhn-AHS-uh-nuh) comprises ut, which means “intense,” “powerful,” or “deliberate,” and the verb tan, meaning to “stretch,” “extend,” or “lengthen.” Uttanasana is a stretch of the entire back body, a yogic term that covers the territory from the soles of the feet and up the backs of the legs; spans the lower, middle, and upper back; rises up the neck; and circles over the scalp and back down the forehead, finally ending at the point between the eyebrows. When you fold forward in Uttanasana, you stretch this entire sheath of muscles and connective tissue. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, the many benefits of this asana include slowing down the heartbeat; toning the liver, spleen, and kidneys; and rejuvenating the spinal nerves.
Half Standing Forward Fold – Ardha Uttanasana (ARD-uh ooh-tuhn-AHS-uh-nuh) – is an essential element of Sun Salutations and helps to prepare the body for deeper yoga poses. Ardha Uttanasana stretches and lengthens your hamstrings, calves, and front and back torso. It also strengthens the back and spine, improving posture. Practicing this pose stimulates the abdominal organs and belly, improving digestion. As part of the Sun Salutation sequence, this pose also helps to teach the linking of breath with movement – an action that soothes and calms the mind.
Standing Forward Fold
• Stretches hamstrings and back
• Alleviates anxiety
• Relieves headaches
• Improves digestion
• Quiets the mind
• Lower-back injury
• Hamstring tear
• Glaucoma, detached retina
Downward Facing Dog; Standing Forward Fold; Head-to-knee Forward Fold
Standing poses, inversions, or seated forward bends.
Uttanasana Tips & Variations:
• Be sure to fold from the hips, not the waist. To learn this movement, place your hands directly on your front hip bones. Press your hands into your front hip bones and hinge from that spot, keeping your torso long.
• If your torso doesn't touch your thighs, bend your knees so that your lower back can release without your hamstrings pulling on it.
• Place yoga blocks under the hands.
• To increase the stretch in the backs of your legs, lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor.
Ardha Uttanasana Tips:
• Emphasize lengthening the front of your torso, instead of bringing your hands all the way to the floor. Bend your knees as much as you need to, or place your hands on your shins, yoga blocks, a chair, or against the wall to keep this length.
• Extend the crown of your head forward as you reach your tailbone behind you. Work to create as much space between your belly button and tailbone as you can.
• Aim for aligning your ankles, knees, and hips. It’s common to lean back, placing too much weight on the heels.
As with all postures, I encourage you to listen to your body and honor where you are mentally, physically and emotionally each day. The pose will be there again tomorrow...
practice in such a way that you can be too!
Hollye and the SGY Teaching Team
“Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled and riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar