While it may not look quite as impressive as some other poses, Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) plays an integral role in sun salutations and in bringing balance to a vigorous, flowing practice. Standing Forward Bend is great at the beginning of class as a check in to notice what tension, if any, exists in the hips and hamstrings, and how that might begin to open up throughout the practice, and also at the end of class to cool down and move into a deeper state of ease and relaxation.
Benefits Of Standing Forward Bend Pose
Standing Forward Bend pose offers a lovely, lengthening stretch for the backs of the legs, including the hamstrings and calves, and helps to strengthen the thighs and the knees. As a deep forward fold, the pose also offers a host of other benefits, including mental calm, relief of headache and insomnia, as well as a nice massage for your internal organs, which can improve digestion and elimination.
Standing Forward Bend Pose Step-By-Step
- Begin standing in Mountain pose (Tadasana), with the feet parallel and separated hip distance apart.
- Place your hands on your hips and inhale to reach the crown of the head up toward the ceiling and find length along the spine.
- On your next exhale, begin to hinge at the hips and fold forward over the legs, bringing the torso to flow over the legs like a waterfall.
- Take as much of a bend in your knees as you need to here in order to take any tension out of the low back, and allow the head to hang heavy. Either let the arms softly hang or take a hold of opposite elbows to deepen the sensation. If it feels comfortable, you can also bring the fingertips to the ground, or press the palms against the calves to move even deeper.
- Shift your weight slightly forward into the balls of your feet and notice how that changes the sensation in your hamstrings.
- To come out of the pose, take a slight bend in the knees and place the hands on the hips. With the core engaged, inhale to find a flat back and exhale all the way up to stand.
- Rather than rounding into the back in an effort to move more deeply into the pose, take a slight bend in the knees and maintain a sense of length along the front torso.
- For those with tighter hamstrings, using blocks to support the fingertips can be helpful to find more length along the legs.
- Variations of this pose include Padangusthasana, where the piece fingers of each hand are hooking on to the big toe of each foot, and the strength of the arms is used to pull the chest closer to the upper thighs, and Pada Hastasana, where the palms of the hands are tucked underneath the soles of the feet, with the toes meeting the wrists for a deep hamstring and wrist stretch.