Uttanasana, also known as Standing Forward Bend Pose, or Intense Stretch Pose, treats abdominal pain and tones the liver, spleen and kidneys.
It also relieves abdominal pain during menstruation. The heartbeat slows down and the spinal cord rejuvenates. Experts believe that by holding this yoga asana for two minutes or more, whatever depression is felt in the mind, it goes away. This yoga asana is a boon for those who get agitated quickly, as it calms the brain cells. After finishing the pose, one feels calm and cool, the eyes start shining and the mind feels at peace.
Those who feel heaviness, redness or discomfort in the head while doing Headstand (Sirsasana), they should first do Uttanasana; Then they will be able to do Headstand comfortably and comfortably.
|Know as:||Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend Pose, Standing Forward Fold Pose, Intense Stretch Pose, Hand to Leg Pose, Intense Forward Stretch|
|Type:||Forward bend, standing pose, inversion|
|Total time:||60 seconds|
|Chahra:||Sahasrara Chakra, Manipura Chakra, Swadisthana Chakra, Muladhara Chakra|
|Indications:||Liver, digestive system, stimulates kidneys, headaches, mild depression, stress, insomnia|
|Counterposes:||Mountain pose, Child’s pose, Savasana|
|Preparatory poses:||Downward-facing dog pose, Upward/half forward fold pose, Head-to-knee pose, Seated forward bend pose, Reclined hand to toe pose|
|Follow-up poses:||Upavistha konasana, Ardha uttanasana, Paschimottanasana|
|Contraindications:||Low blood pressure, Back injury (keep the knees bent), pregnancy (careful modifications are possible; Widen stance and keep knees bent)|
Meaning + Origin
Uttanasana is derived from the Sanskrit name, which is made up of three words – Ut + tan + asana:
- “Ut” = “intense (particle indicating deliberation, intensity)“
- “tan” = “to stretch or extend or lengthen out“
- “asana” = “pose or posture”
In Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose), a deliberate and intense stretch is given to the spine. Knowing when to accept the intensity and when to be content with where you are is the key to steady progress without injury or frustration. It’s easier to try to push for more – with Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose), this means being more flexible or moving forward in the pose. Instead of struggling, use the pose to practice contentment.
The Standing Forward Bend is a modern pose, first seen in the 20th century. A pose called Uttanasana is depicted in the 19th-century Sritattvanidhi, but it is quite different from the modern posture (lying on the back, elbows touching the knees and hands touching the back of the neck).
The yoga posture is described in Krishnamacharya’s 1934 Yoga Makaranda, and in the works of his students, BKS Iyengar’s 1966 Light on Yoga and Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Theos Bernard however refers to the related asana Padhahasthasana or Hands to Feet Pose (sic) in his 1944 report about his experience of hatha yoga on the border of India and Tibet, suggesting the existence of a separate tradition.
Benefits of Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
As the Uttanasana or Intense Forward Stretch Pose is intense with its forward stretch, most of its benefits lie in the core, center. The physical and mental benefits are listed below.
- Physical Benefits:
- Stretches the hamstrings and calves
- Strengthens the feet, knees, and thighs
- Opens the hips and groins
- Stimulates the liver, kidneys, and digestive system
- Improves the function of digestive and reproductive systems
- Alleviates discomfort from sinusitis
- Relieves menopausal discomfort, headache, insomnia, and fatigue
- Mental Benefits:
- Relieves anxiety
- Relieves mild depression
- Reduces stress
- Soothes the nervous system
Step-by-step Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Keep your feet parallel in Tadasana and keep your knees tight. Look down and check that the inner edge of each foot is pointing straight ahead, so your feet are parallel to each other. Extend your toes, lift your knees, and push through your spine, chest, and head into a standing position.
Inhale, extend your arms overhead, and extend through your fingers through your lower abdomen. Exhale while maintaining the length, bend forward and place your fingers on the floor. Spread your toes, root through the four corners of your feet, and press your thigh bones back into your hamstrings, creating space between your abs and thighs.
Keeping the space between the abdomen and thighs, clasp your big toes. Use the strength of your inner thighs to widen your sit bones. Inhale, pull the sides of your waist up, and lower your tailbone. Exhale and twist your torso deeply forward. Stay for several breaths. Pull the muscles in your shoulders up with your hands, drawing your shoulder blades to your back. Keep your leg muscles firmly engaged. Keep your hip joints directly over your ankles.
Bring the hands to the backs of your calves. Press your hands into your calves while actively moving your thighs back against this resistance. Spread your toes and root the four corners of your feet into the floor. Pull in your shoulders with your hands to bring the shoulder blades back more.
Stay in this posture and take two deep breaths. While inhaling, raise the head above the knees, but without lifting your hands from the backs of your calves. After two breaths, take a deep breath, lift the hands off the backs of your calves and come back into Tadasana.
Props and modifications
Use yoga blocks
Do Uttanasana with two blocks on the floor in front of you. As you bend down, you can rest the palms on it. If it’s too high for you to hang it down, you can use a bolster to prop your head on it.
Facing the wall
Come into the pose by standing close to the wall, so that your back is supported by it while bending forward.
Use yoga strap
Wrap the yoga strap under the feet. Now, as you bend forward, either grab its ends or pull it into a loop and tie it around your waist. With a short strap, you can attach it to the back of your head.
Using a chair
Instead of a block when your muscles are too tight, you can choose a chair to lean forward. Hold the chair in front of you and as you bend you can grasp its legs with the hands and rest your head on the seat.
Precautions and contraindications
This intense stretching pose also cannot be practiced without much guidance and can damage some muscles if one does not understand the human anatomy.
- The human body is so beautifully designed that it indicates that something is not right. Thus, in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose) if the body is communicating to you about a certain stretch, individuals should not ignore it at all.
- When there is pain in the lower back, this yoga pose should be avoided by deepening the stretch or by bending the knees. Any unwanted lower back strain while in the pose can only cause more damage to the hip joints or lower back muscles.
- This exercise should not be done if the person has a hamstring or knee injury.
- This intense forward stretch pose brings the lower back and sacrum to stretch deeply, and hence can be very harmful to the lower spine region if done without guidance.
- Gluteus extension can be painful if one has a weak hip bone, thus it is better to avoid it if one is not confident about the surrounding muscles’ hips and gluteus.
- A person suffering from migraine should avoid Uttanasana as the sudden flow of fresh blood to the head in this asana can create more tension, which can make the head heavy.
- Pressure in the abdominal area may not be good for a person with severe stomach ailments, as this pressure can irritate the stomach lining or the intestines more.
- Do not practice this pose if you have just had a meal, as the pressure towards the stomach can cause indigestion.
- A person with neck problems should avoid this yoga pose as the neck and head hang down, which can increase the tension.
- Any type of injury to the shoulder or upper back will bring more stress, so it is better to avoid it.
- If you have a back injury, avoid doing it with a full forward bend.
- Any type of severe joint pain can aggravate the condition if practiced without proper guidance, so it is advisable to avoid Uttanasana if the joints are not strong enough or there is a joint injury.
- Do not do asanas when you have sciatica.
- In case of high blood pressure, stay in the pose for extended periods only when the breath does not stretch.
- If you are pregnant or menstruating, avoid practicing this yoga pose completely by leaning forward. Instead, try a variation of this, i.e. Ardha Uttanasana, with the spine parallel to the floor and the hands on the wall.
I am having pain in the back of my legs. What can I do?
It means you are too deep. Either come forward and stay in the pose without pain, or bend your legs as much as necessary. Learn to stretch and stay in the pose without pain. Go near the pain, but don’t be in it. If the sensation is too intense, your muscles will contract to protect themselves from excessive stretching. It means you are going very deep, very fast. Stay in your comfort zone and nudge delicately into your tight areas.
Should I insist on locking the elbows in this pose?
Actually, you don’t want to “lock” the elbows. You want the arms to be completely straight. If you think of “locking the elbows” while keeping the arms straight, there will be too much stress on the elbows, and a tendency to hyperextension. You want the flow of energy to pass freely through the elbow. You don’t want to turn it off.
The same happens with your knees when your legs are straight. You don’t want to lock your knees. To increase the energy flow, you want to raise your knees while keeping your legs straight. I emphasize the extension of the arm while making the descent, to extend the spine outward. It is only after you have achieved the outward extension of the spine that you allow your elbows to bend inward. Unless you stretch out, the lumbar and sacral regions of your spine will never get their full extension. It is this external stretch that will eventually take you deeper into the pose. Then your spine will be as long and flat as possible. If you turn your head inward toward your knees, your back will become too rounded. You will feel that your energy is emanating from the middle of your back instead of over your head.
If someone is breathing too fast, would you consider this as feedback that they’ve gone too deep?
Yes. Rapid breathing is only necessary if you’re pushing the end edge too hard, and it’s rarely recommended. It is not recommended for beginners. In any case, it should be voluntary.
The whole trick is to find a place in the pose where you can deepen your breath, stretch sensitively, and enjoy what you’re doing. When this happens, you will relax deeply into the pose. The quickest way to deepen a pose is to go slowly, not by running to a “full” pose or your deepest expanse. Full posture is like foam on a wave: it is, it will be, but it is not the important thing. The important thing is to flirt with your physical and mental edges (wherever they may be), enjoy the process, and immerse yourself in the experience you are now. Being full hearted rarely means full blast. This means generating the degree of emotion-tone and intensity that suits you best now; Sometimes more, sometimes less.