Foundation Friday: Uttanasana

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Our Foundation Friday series delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice.  Today we are highlighting Uttanasana, or standing forward fold.  


Foundation Friday: Uttanasana


Uttanasana || Standing Forward Fold OOH-tah-NAH-sah-nah

Ud (उद्; ud) = prefix for verbs or nouns, indicating superiority in location, rank, power, intensity Tana (तान; tāna) = "stretched" Uttana (उत्तान; uttāna) = "intense stretch" or "straight" or "stretched" Asana (आसन; āsana) meaning "posture" or "seat"

 

Uttanasana is an active time-out; your legs release, your feet root and ground you, your head is below your heart, and your spine releases. Taking time here allows your other postures to integrate and connects you to the present moment.  With a variety of ways to execute uttanasana, you can tailor your experience in this asana to suit your intention.  You may choose to dangle and sway, releasing tension from your entire back body, or you may choose a variation including a grip on the toes or hands under the feet with a more active core, spine and legs. Regardless, uttanasana allows you to hang your heart close to your body, a shape that offers inner reflection and the opportunity to create self-love.  As our postures are medicine, this one bows you into your Self, creating a reverent pause to fall deeper in love.

 

Benefits of Uttanasana

 

  • stretches your hips, hamstrings and calves
  • strengthens your knees and thighs
  • keeps your spine strong and flexible
  • calms your mind, soothes your nerves
  • reduces stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression
  • releases neck, spine and back tension
  • activates your core
  • stimulates your kidneys, liver and spleen
  • addresses symptoms of menopause, asthma, headaches and insomnia
  • improves digestion
  • can lower high blood pressure
How do I get there?

 

1. Start in Tadasana (mountain pose), creating a clear connection with the earth through your feet (pada bandha)
2. With your hands on your hips, exhale and fold forward, drawing your navel to your spine slightly to create more space from which to bend.
3. Continue to root down through the 4 corners of your feet and draw energy up the inner seam of your legs into your pelvic floor and core.  Allow a slight bend in your knee if needed to release any hyper-extension.  Lift your sit bones to stretch your hamstrings and take your inner thighs up and back to release your sacrum.
4.  Release any tension from your neck and allow the weight of your crown to draw you deeper into the stretch.
5.  You may choose to grab for opposite elbows, wrap a mudra around your big toes, walk your palms under your feet or place your hands to the sides or backs of your legs.  Follow the pattern of inhale to lengthen and exhale to deepen to continue to surrender in this pose.
6.  You may hold uttanasana for 30 seconds to over a minute, or perhaps as long as you need.  To come out of the pose, bring your hands back to your hips and rotate up from the joint until you are standing strong and tall.  Let the information of the pose land in you as you breathe and observe.