Pose Analysis: Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
The standing forward fold…
When I say, “Now it is time for the forward bend” in my yoga classes, I can tell by the groans that it’s not the most loved pose.
I can sense a resistance and I can feel that people think, “oh I can’t do this one, so what’s the point in trying it anyway?”
If you’re not a dancer or a professional sports player, we generally don’t tend to do stretching in our daily lives. As the years go by, we get stiff. We start to have back problems and so on. This general tightness is particularly highlighted when we try this pose. We get stuck in the middle somewhere, our fingers can’t reach the mat and it can be frustrating and uncomfortable.
However, it is worth the effort.
When we do a forward fold, it engages our spine muscles, hamstrings, hips and calves. You might find it hard but there are many benefits of the pose if it is done on a regular basis.
Benefits of a Standing Forward Fold:
- Recovery from mental and physical exhaustion.
- Slows down the heartbeat.
- Tones the liver, spleen and kidneys.
- Reduces abdominal and back pain during the menstruation.
- Stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips.
- Reduces fatigue and anxiety.
- Relieves headache and insomnia.
- Improves digestion.
May be next time, while getting into this pose, we can try to remember its benefits.
But at the same, you should be cautious if you have problems with your back or spine. Such as, if you have a spinal disc disorder, do not do the full pose. Stay on the half way point. Ensure that your spine is concave throughout the asana. Those prone to acidity and dizziness should practice this asana with the legs positioned slightly apart. If you have a back injury, do this pose with bent knees or with your hands on the wall, arms parallel to the floor.
Some useful tips for improving the forward fold:
- As in all the forward bends, the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso a you move more fully into the position.
- With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly, with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend.
- If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows.
- Pull you kneecaps into your knees, keep both knees parallel to each other.
- Exhale and push your torso closer to your legs.
- Keep your thighs fully stretched.
- Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints not from your waist!
- Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling.
- Don’t roll the spine to come up. Instead, bring your hands back onto your hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso then press the tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.