Standing Forward Bend  -Uttanasana

Step by step

  • Start in Tadasana/Mountain pose
  • Inhale as you raise your arms.
  • On an exhalation engage your thighs, pull the belly in and up deep from the pelvic floor, to protect your lower back and bend forwards, hinging from the hips.
  • Keep length in the front of your body. Avoid bending from the waist. As with all forward bends, it is more important to maintain length in the front of the body rather than trying to bring the torso closer to the legs.
  • If it is possible to keep your legs straight, place your hands/fingertips on the floor, in front of your feet or next to your feet, or hold onto the back of your ankles or calves.
  • Alternatively, you can bend your knees.
  • Keep your hips over your heels as you press your heels into the floor. The tops of your inner thighs should roll in a little.
  • Let your head hang from your spine keeping the neck relaxed.
  • On an in-breath increase length in the front of your body. On an out-breath, see if you can soften a little deeper into the pose.

Beginners' tips

  • If it is uncomfortable for your hips to keep your feet together, separate your feet to hips’ distance apart.
  • Bend your knees if you have any discomfort in your lower back or if you feel a tight pulling sensation in your hamstrings.
  • Internally rotating your thighs by engaging your inner thigh muscles will help you to spread your sitting bones, thereby giving you more room to fold.
     

Benefits

  • Stretches the back of the legs, the hips and spine.
  • Strengthens the legs, thighs and knees.
  • Balances the nervous system, calms the mind.
  • Improves digestion, stimulates the liver and kidneys.
  • Relieves tension in the lower back when practised with bent knees.

Watch out for

  • Don’t pull yourself down to achieve depth - prioritise length in the front of your body and give your body time to move when it’s ready.
  • If you have any issues with your back, such as herniated discs, please check with your health professional before practising forward bends. You may need to modify or avoid them depending on your individual condition.

Variations

  • You can practise this pose with your knees bent, bringing your chest towards your thighs. 
  • If it feels ok for your hamstrings and lower back you can then try to straighten your legs. However, keeping them bent is perfectly fine.
  • You can also practise a Rag Doll version of forward bend. Keeping the legs straight or slightly bent, allow the back to relax and round. Let your head be heavy. Either allow your hands to rest on the floor or hang down. Or hook each hand in the opposite elbow crease - as if you are crossing your arms.