Oh, forward folds, how I love you so. You open and lubricate the entire back body – legs, spine and all. You give the internal organs a good massage to keep everything happy and moving. And more than anything, you bring about a sense of peace and calm that can benefit all of us in these crazy, hectic times.
The Difference Between Uttanasana and Padahastasana
Two standing forward folds, Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Padahastasana (Gorilla Pose), involve similar approaches and provide the same benefits mentioned above, but the latter of the two kicks it up a few notches.
Padahastasana requires a little bit more flexibility than Uttanasana, which is a bit more forgiving for tight hamstrings. That’s because the main difference between the two is that while Uttanasana is a basic forward fold that allows your hands to rest on your thighs, shins, ankles or floor (essentially wherever you can reach), Padahastasana calls for placing your hands under your feet.
How to Do a Forward Fold
Let’s start with Uttanasana.
- Start in Mountain pose with your feet hip-width apart.
- With your hands on your hips, inhale.
- On the exhale, fold forward at the hips and reach your hands to your thighs, shins, ankles, or floor. The other option is to bend your arms and hold on to your elbows.
- As you breathe in this posture, allow your neck to relax and continue to lengthen the spine, feeling your breath move all the way down your back into your lower back.
- TIP FOR BEGINNERS: If your hamstrings are screaming, it’s ok to allow a bend in your knees.
- MORE ADVANCED ADVICE: To get even more out of this posture, rotate your thighs in to create more space in the hips, which will allow you to fold deeper into the pose, and your tailbone to rise higher.
Ready for Padahastasana?
Padahastasana means hand under foot pose, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do! You can go straight into this pose from Mountain pose or move into it from Uttanasana.
Bend your knees as much as you need to so that your torso connects with your thighs. With your palms facing up, slide your hands under your feet so your toes are at your wrists. Don’t be afraid to move your weight forward so that there’s pressure on the pads of your hands.
For anyone who works at a computer all day or does some other repetitive motion with your hands and wrists, Padahastasana will provide amazing relief from the tension.
I recommend practicing these postures daily – either as part of your regular practice or even just when you’re feeling a little stressed and need to calm the mind and body. Having trouble sleeping? Don’t just lie there; forward folds can help with that too.
Just a word of caution: if you’re not properly warmed up, move slowly to avoid pulling or straining muscles. Injury is the last thing you want from such soothing poses.
Image credit for Padahastasana: Amber Scriven