Sometimes we need to turn our attention inward–to reflect, to get quiet, to unplug.
Forward Bends provide us with the opportunity to do just that. This month we’re featuring Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend, the next transitional posture in the Friendly Warrior Series.
Uttanasana | Standing Forward Bend
1. Stand in Tadasana with your hands on your hips. On your next outbreath, hinge from your hips (not the waist) allowing your torso to come forward. Root the heels down towards the earth; lift the sit bones up towards the sky. Feel the dynamic tension of both extending up as well as down along the hamstrings. Be careful not to overextend and lock the knees, losing the equivalent of an “armpit” space behind the knees. Maintain the “armpit” space at the back of the knees, while lengthening along the back of the legs.
2. Use the inbreaths to extend through the crown of the head, lengthening along the spine. Use the outbreaths to deepen into the posture, allowing the torso to gradually come forward as much as possible. Be careful not to lock the knees.
3. To find more space in the body, you can choose to “walk” the heels–alternately lifting and pressing them down, one at time. You can also choose to shake out the arms, shoulders, neck, and head. A great way to shake out the neck and head is to shake the head as if you were saying “yes” and “no.”
4. Fold the arms, holding the elbows with the hands. Or clasp the backs of your calves or ankles with the hands. Or extend your fingertips down towards the earth. Or connect your palms with the earth.
5. Breathing as deeply as possible, maintain the posture for 3 to 5 breaths.
6. To come back to neutral, first root the heels down with the earth, bending the knees slightly. On your next inbreath, slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time. Or, to come back to neutral, bring your hands to your hips and root down through the heels. On your next inbreath, extend through the crown of the head, lengthening along the spine and draw the torso upright.
• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
• Stimulates the liver and kidneys
• Opens the hamstrings, calves, and hips
• Strengthens the thighs and knees
• Improves digestion
• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
• Reduces fatigue and anxiety
• Relieves headache and insomnia
• Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
Contraindications and Cautions
If you have a back injury, do this posture with you knees bent. Or modify the posture by putting your hands on a wall, legs perpendicular to your torso, and arms parallel to the earth.
To increase the opening in the backs of your legs, bend your knees slightly. Imagine that the sacrum is sinking deeper into the back of your pelvis and bring the tailbone closer to the pubis. Then against this resistance, push the top of the thighs back and the heels down and straighten the knees again. Be careful not to straighten the knees by locking them back (you can press your hands against the back of each knee to provide some resistance); instead let them straighten as the two ends of each leg move farther apart.
Deepen The Pose
To increase the opening 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 earth. Draw your inner groin deep into the pelvis and then, from the height of the groin, lengthen your heels back onto the earth.