Technique for Uttanasana (standing forward bends)

For a start, the first challenge to beginner who is not so flexible will be the forward bending. The techniques illustrated below will help to improve the flexibility for forward bending more efficiently.

The technique of getting into Uttanasana (Standing forward bends pose):

1. Stand in Tadasanan (mountain pose).

2. Inhale, rise both arms high up gaze at the thumbs, stretch the entire body and contract the thigh muscles and lift up the knee caps

3. Exhale, gaze at nose, bends forward at the hip, maintain both legs fully extended and lifted knee caps, place your fingers or palm on the floor. If your are not able to reach the floor, place your palm on a block (see pic below) or hold your hand on your ankles or near your ankles.

4. Inhale and raise your head,  straighten your arms and stretch the spine forward, press the front of  your soles down on the floor

5. Exhale, extend your thighs from the knees to the hips, push your hips forward, bring your torso closer to the legs and rest the head on the knees.  Hold it for at least 5 breath. If you can, place you palms behind the foot and stretch your arms from the shoulder as shown below for a deeper pose:

The technique of getting out of Uttanasana:

6.  Inhale and raise the head from the knees without releasing the palms from the floor or the ankles, keep the torso straight and raise the torso upright,  and come back to Tadasana.

Techniques to deepen the pose:

A. Engage anterior deltoids – 

(i) having fixed the hands on the floor, attempt to drag them forward; or

(ii) having the hand grasped on the ankles, attempt to pull them forward.

Activating the anterior deltoids with the hands fixed in place stretches the posterior kinetic chain, including the hamstrings during forward bends. Thus you are drawing the torso forward, engage the quadriceps to straighten the knees. This also caused the antagonist hamstring muscles to relax into the stretch (see pic below).

B. Engage gluteus medius and tensor faciae latae

Press the feet firmly into the floor and attempt to rotate the legs medially (toes of feets together while the heels spread apart). This actions free the sacroiliac joints allowing extra allowance for forward bending. At the same time, it cause the antagonist gluteus maximus muscle to relax into the stretch for deeper forward bends (see pic below).

C. Contract the abs –

The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques and transversus abdominis) and erector spinae are agonist/antagonist group. Similar to quads and hamstrings, when one contracts the other one stretches. Therefore when you contract your abs, erector spinae will extend it stretch more and you could lower the torso further.

Now that you’ve know the techniques to get in and out of the pose, techniques to deepen the pose and what are the muscles that will be contracted and stretched for this pose. By targeting to strengthen these muscles through proper warm ups and drills, you’ll be able to master Uttanasan with ease and enjoy the benefits it bring forth.