LIGHT ON YOGA…uttanasana

Uttanasana aka Standing Forward Bend.

Such a deceiving pose. So simple…. Stand. Bend forward. Yet there is so much more happening in this pose.

This pose is challenging. It simply brings you face-to-face with your limitations and immediately asks you to be patient. To breath and surrender.

No amount of pushing or pulling (except, perhaps, by a really forceful teacher) will get you any lower or deeper into this pose. It happens when it happens. And then, sometimes, you lose it. Like I have recently.

The hamstring tear that has recently graced me with its presence has made Uttanasana a challenge. It is the pose I spent years cultivating – working slowly as my hamstrings softened and opened – gradually falling in love with it. But now, I have a different relationship with it. It’s become my indicator – It tells me when my injury is playing up, when I should listen to my body and when I should pull back, modify and go easy.

But irrespective of the difficulty in achieving this pose, or how my relationship with it has changed it is still such a beautiful, nurturing, calming pose. It can be strong if you ask it, but usually the joy in this pose lies in its soothing effects.

Benefits of Uttanasana:
•Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
•Stimulates the liver and kidneys
•Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
•Strengthens the thighs and knees
•Improves digestion
•Reduces fatigue and anxiety
•Relieves headache and insomnia
•Therapeutic for high blood pressure

How to:
1. Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose) with hands on hips.
2. Exhale and bend forward – hinge from the hip joints, not from the waist.
3. As you slowly fold down lift the chest up and over – creating space between your pelvis and the sternum.
4. As you move into the position keep lengthening the front torso
5. If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles.
6. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows.
7. Ground the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs slightly inward and up – engaging the quads.
8. With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend.
9. To come back up, bring your hands to your hips and as you exhale maintain the length of the torse, draw the tailbone down towards the pelvis.

Uttanasana is a beautiful pose to practice between standing poses. You can slow down the breath and find your centre again. It’s also used a lot in Sun Salutation and Vinyasa flow practices. However, as pose itself it marries the active and the passive deliciously. Calming the nervous system down and slowing the breath, Uttanasana is both restorative for the internal body and lively for the external body.

If you have a back injury keep your legs bent as you enter and exit the pose. Avoid full Uttanasana is you have a bulging disc and practice Ardha Uttanasana at the wall – hands pressed into the wall, arms parallel to the floor and the body at a right angle. It’s also nice to practice Uttanasana by leaning the sit bones against the wall to support you and take the pressure off your hamstrings.

I hope you enjoy Uttanasana.

Signing off with an exhale.
Pause. Listen. Live



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