This Asana is one of the first ones which a Yoga beginner will practice as it has a high importance in the sun salutations.
When you translate the word “Uttanasana” to English, it can be translated with “standing forward bend”. In my opinion, it’s more than only a forward bend, it’s a powerful stretch as well.
Before you start with this Asana, you need to warm up. The warming up includes almost all parts of your body. Shoulder, spine, hip, knee, pelvis, hamstring and calves are included. You can’t do this Asana with a full stomach, be sure that your stomach and bowels are empty before you start. Uttanasana has some interesting benefits as it heals and rejuvenates your body. The reason is that the head is below your heart and therefore, this pose improves the blood circulation in your head. As a result, more oxygen reaches your cells.
At the beginning, you have to be in a standing position. During the inhale, you raise your arms up to the ceiling. Actually, you don’t have to raise up your arms but I think it helps to get a fluent and good bending. During the exhale, you have to bend forward – folding from your hips. Bring your belly as close as possible to your tights, your chest to your knees and your head to your lower legs. Look between your lower legs. You can bring your arms down on the floor, next to your feet.
Till now, you can already make a lot of mistakes. First, it’s really important that you bend your hips as much as possible and that you tilt your pelvis forward and avoid rounding of the lower back. Your buttocks have to point up to the ceiling by moving your hips by tensing your hip flexor. If the stretch in your hamstring is too much, you should bend your knees slightly more. Generally, the knees aren’t locked but gently bended. The stretching of your hamstring will be one of the most influencing parameters. Don’t forget your calves – you will feel a stretch as well.
If you have done all these elements of this Asana well, the next challenge will be to find the balance. If your weight is too much backward, you won’t bend your upper body as much as possible. If your weight is too much forward, you will get imbalanced. Therefore, bend your toes and press them into the ground. You have to shift weight on the balls of your feet and not on your heels. You will see how much more bending is possible, if you will consider this.
Contraindications or take care if you have a lower back injury, a tear in the hamstrings, a sciatica or problems with your eyes like glaucoma.
If this Asana is too difficult, you can adapt it in some ways. Bend your knees when your hamstring-stretch is too intensive or put your hands on the wall (instead of on the floor) and bring them parallel to the floor when someone has a back injury.
This Asana can help to stretch your back, hips, calves and hamstrings, reduce headache, massage the digestive organs, improve the digestion and strengthen the thighs and knees.
This Asana seems to be easy but it’s a big job for your body.
Sylvana F., YTT Jan. 2018