“Bend down and touch your fingers to your toes!” How many times have we been told to do this to warm up before any activity begins PE classes since primary school. Most people who have never been told to fold forward from the hips instead of the middle back have trouble touching the toes, there’s also those of us who are smug from being able to touch the toes through ballistic stretching. Why did PE teachers not tell us how to do it correctly?
The standing forward fold is known as Uttanasana in sanskrit and is the first standing asana in the ashtanga primary series. It is an extremely efficient way to stretch and lengthen multiple muscles such as the soleus, gastrocnemius, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spine and latissimus dorsi.
Besides improving the flexibility of the hips and hamstrings, this pose also improves blood circulation and relieves tension in the back, shoulder and neck.
How Uttanasana is done:
- Stand tall, feet hip-width apart
- Inhale, lengthen your spine by extending your torso upwards, arms up and arch your upper back to open the chest if you like
- Exhale, fold forward, using your index and middle fingers, hold on to your big toes*
- Hold for 5 breaths
*Other variations include placing your palms face down on the outside of your feet, placing palms face up below your feet, holding the back of your ankles, or holding opposite elbows.
- Micro-bend the knee to prevent hyper-extension of the knee joints
- The back should be straight instead of rounded, think of touching your chin to your knee/shin instead of touching your forehead to your knee/shin
- The hips should be directly over your ankles, try moving your weight into the ball of your feet instead of your heels by leaning forward slightly
- Deepen your forward fold with every exhalation by relaxing your sacrum and using your fingers to pull your upper body downwards
Angeline Chia (200hrs weekend)