Uttanasana / Standing forward fold

Uttanasana translates literally as intense stretch pose. Aside from wakening up your hamstrings and decompressing your spine, you’ll benefit from an energising rush of oxygen to the brain in this posture as blood rushes towards your head. Remember to relax your neck, let gravity work its magic.

I never do my first Uttanasana with straight legs (especially in the winter / morning) because I prioritise bringing my chest to my knees to allow my hands to come flat on the floor, broadening the space between my shoulders. Around the 2nd or 3rd sun salutation I’ll begin to straighten my legs, depending on the time of day / year.

We all have a natural degree of openness in the hamstrings and lower back, so honour what feels right and forget about straight legs, you really don’t need them to get the benefits of this posture…

Getting into the asana: 

  • Starting in tadasana (mountain pose)
  • Bend the knees softly (deeply if your hamstrings are super tight)…
  • Fold forward at the hips to bring your chest right on your thighs and to…
  • Place the palms of your hands flat on the ground, slightly ahead (working towards either side) of your feet (If they don’t reach the ground, place them on flat blocks, but try bending your knees more first)
  • Relax the back of the neck, don’t hold up your head
  • Look at the navel

Once in the asana:

  • Pull up through the quads to protect the hamstring
  • Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades
  • Re-engage mula banda and uddiyana bandha (suck up through the pelvic floor muscles and pull in your core)
  • Relax your neck (you’ve probably tried to look up a little bit by this point)

Variations:

  • Hold the elbows in opposite hands and ‘hang out’
  • Place the hands on the back of the calves/ankles
  • Place a block underneath the heals