Ardha Uttanasana, also known as Standing Half Forward Bend, stretches the entire backside of the body, especially the legs (hamstrings, calves) and lower back, and spine.
|Known as:||Standing half forward bend, Ardha Uttanasana, Flat back pose, Urdhva Uttanasana|
|English:||Standing half forward bend, Flat back pose|
|Focus:||Back, Hamstrings, Calves, Knees,|
|Total Time:||60 seconds|
|Chakra:||Sahasrara Chakra, Ajna Chakra, Manipura Chakra, Swadisthana Chakra, Muladhara Chakra|
|Counter Poses:||Bhujangasana, Salamba bhujangasana, Matsyendrasana|
|Preparatory Poses:||Uttanasana, Phalakasana, Tadasana|
|Sequential Poses:||Prasarita padottanasana, Chatarunga dandasana|
|Indications:||Stress, kidney, liver, digestion, reproductive system, menopause discomfort, headache, insomnia, fatigue, sinusitis|
|Contraindications:||Back injury, Sciatica|
Ardha Uttanasana is a Sanskrit term that is made up of three words – Ardha + Uttana + Asana:
- “Ardha” = “half”
- “Uttana” = “intense stretch or extension”
- “Asana” = “pose or posture”
Therefore, the literal translation of Ardha Uttanasana is “Half Intense Stretch Pose”. The pose is named as such because it involves folding forward from the hips while standing, which creates an intense stretch in the back of the legs and spine.
One reason for Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend) in Vinyasa Yoga Classes is so much that it positions the body for Chaturanga Dandasana. Because it engages the navel and core, it is a powerful yoga pose to warm the body, which is why it is included in warm-up yoga sequences. Despite its sometimes transitory nature, the pose also engages the manipura (navel chakra), which can increase the confidence and willpower of the practitioner.
The practice of this yoga pose can bring harmony between the mind, body and spirit, and expert believed that regular practice of this yoga pose can give greater physical health, mental clarity and inner peace.
The pose is often used as a preparatory pose for deeper forward folds or inversions, especially in the context of Ardha Uttanasana, and it also helps to improve posture and reduce tension and stress in the body. The pose is typically practiced in a slow, mindful manner, with a focus on deep breathing and body awareness.
Benefits of Ardha Uttanasana
Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend) insist on lengthening the spine, making the blade pull the shoulder backward, and further expand the heart center, drawing the sternum forward toward the horizon. Present and demonstrate options for bending the knees, moving the fingers, and/or keeping the hands upward.
All these options help to fully extend the spine. As yogis have developed flexibility in the hamstrings and hips, they have to cue their feet to keep the ground and legs strong, cultivating a more stable foundation that lengthens the spine.
- Strengthens the feet, knees, and thighs
- Stretches the hamstrings and calves
- Improves the function of digestive and reproductive systems
- Opens the hips and groins
- Stimulates the liver, kidneys, and digestive system
- Relieves menopausal discomfort, headache, insomnia, and fatigue
- Alleviates discomfort from sinusitis
Step-by-step Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)
Stand with feet hip-width apart in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Look down and check that the inner edge of each foot is pointing straight ahead, so the feet are parallel to each other. Extend toes, lift knees, and push through spine, chest, and head to stand.
Breathe smoothly, making a uniform, pleasant sound in the throat while waiting for the internal signal to begin. When you’re ready, take a deep breath.
As you exhale, hinge forward from the hips and place the hands either on the thighs just above the knees or on the shins just below the knees. The idea here is to flatten the back and elongate the spine.
Turn the hips toward the dog’s incline and feel where the three lines of energy are: one down the legs, one through the arms, and one through (and eventually down) the spine.
To clarify the leg line, first bring the feet to the floor and feel the connection with the earth. Make sure you are grounded. Then tighten the quadriceps (thigh muscles) and pull the kneecaps up, press both feet to the floor, and twist the sit bones up. As you do this, rotate the thighs inward, spread the buttocks apart, and make sure the weight is coming down the center of each leg—not too far forward or back, nor toward the inner or outer edge of either leg.
To clarify the arm line, press while straightening the arms, lengthen them, and lift-up from the back of the head and neck. Don’t lean into the hands or lean into the shoulders. Lengthen the arms, lift-up and continue to rise. Doing this will put some load on the hands in the form of palm pressure, but do it sparingly.
Extend the spine horizontally. Press backward through the buttocks, and stretch forward through the crown of the head. While lifting the head and looking forward, do not shorten the back of the neck. Gently roll the chin to the back of the head, without tightening the throat, and shrug the shoulders away from the ears, so that the shoulder blades slide back. You will feel as if a turtle is sticking its head out of its shell. Gaze at the floor.
The forward fold is initiated by turning the hips into a dog bend. It divides the body from the center in two opposite directions. The key to turning deeply into this pose, as in all forward folds, is to increase pelvic rotation toward the dog’s flank, so you’re hinged at the hip joint, and lift the rib cage away from the waist as you lift the crown. Proceed through the head. As you direct the stretch outward, the spine forms an indented groove on the back. Check with fingers to make sure there are no protruding vertebrae.
Breathing, remembering, is the most important aspect of the yoga technique, it is the life of the pose. So, taste the air as it flows in and out and listen to the sound you are making. Breathe smoothly, generate the right degree of current through the lines, and wait for the initial sensations of stretch to subside before turning deeper.
Modifications of Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)
- Slide the hands over the ankles, when the initial sensations of stretch subside, and you notice the elbows tend to bend, slide the hands down the legs.
- Slowly bend deeply into the pose, breathing carefully, with the breath. As you inhale, push the spine forward horizontally, and as you exhale, twist deeply. Keep arms and legs straight.
- When you reach the ankles, check the alignment of the lines once again:
- press the feet into the floor and lift the sit bones, lowering the lower back;
- Press the arms straight out, lengthen them as much as you can, and lift them over the back of the head and neck, so that you don’t drop into the shoulders;
- Then press backward through the sit bones and forward through the crown of the head, pulling the shoulders away from the ears. These three lines work together beautifully.
- The better the extension of the spine now, the deeper the stretch will be later. Create a degree of stretch that feels right—not too much, not too little. Take a deep breath while keeping it smooth. Wait for the stretch sensations on this edge to subside somewhat before proceeding.
Contractions of Ardha Uttanasana
As always, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise, workout, or yoga routine. In general, Ardha Uttanasana is a comfortable posture, most people can safely do as long as they are using good form. However, people with certain conditions must be mindful during their yoga practice.
- Pregnant women may need to stand up to widen their legs to avoid contractions of your abdomen. Nothing is more comfortable than deep folding. In the later stages of pregnancy, do not be afraid to leave the posture if it is not comfortable for you.
- People with sciatica or other lower back, try to bend your toes to make the posture more comfortable.
- People at risk of balance problems or falls, use assistance (such as a chair, wall, or another person’s physical support) to prevent injury.
- If people are hurt or recovering from surgery involving your neck, bending forward with a straight back can usually be done until you lift your face to look forward.