By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Uttana also means stretched out. Uttanasana gives powerful stretch to the body and hence is named so. It is a pose involving forward bending. Therefore, it is called as Standing Forward Bend.
Ut = powerful
Tan = to stretch
Asana = posture
Actual translation of Uttanasanam with word split gives a meaning as ‘a powerful stretching pose’.
It not only gives a stretch to your body but also heals and rejuvenates it. In this pose, as you bend forwards, your head is below the level of the heart. This act allows good blood circulation in your head. This enriches your brain cells with good nutrition and oxygenation. This is a type of Hatha Yoga practice. It is known to stretch the muscles of hips, thighs and legs and also strengthen the knee joints and thighs.
This pose is done often in Vinyasa style practice, as a part of Surya Namaskara i.e. Sun Salutation sequence. It is performed at the beginning and also at the end of the sequence.
Read – Hatha Yoga and Shat Karmas: Benefits, Precautions
- Standing Head-to-Knees Pose
- Intense Stretch Pose
Table of Contents
Preparation for Uttanasana
- Uthanasana should be performed on empty stomach. Therefore one should consume food 4-6 hours before performing the pose.
- One should evacuate his bowel and bladder before performing this pose.
- The ideal time to practice is early morning. Alternatively it can be done in the evening if one cannot do the asana in the morning schedule.
Read – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body
Method of doing
Positioning for the Asana
- Stand straight and erect on your Yoga mat as if in Tadasana.
- Rest your hand on your hips. (Alternatively the upper limbs are raised above the head such that they are parallel to each other and palms facing each other i.e. Raised Hands Pose or Urdhwa Hastasana. The forward bend is done from this point bringing down the torso and the hands simultaneously.)
- Slowly inhale.
Performing and getting to the Uttanasan
- Slowly exhale.
- Bend forward slowly folding from your hips, as you gently soften your knees.
- As your body moves forward in the bend you need to slowly push and move your hips and tailbone slightly to the back. This will help in counterbalancing your body weight. So you bend at your hips / groins in this pose. When you bend with exhaling you are straightening your pubis and the entire chest region with sternum. While you bend you make sure that the entire torso moves as a single unit. The head and spine too move down simultaneously.
- The knees should be kept soft and relaxed as you progress ahead into the asana. By doing this you will be able to point your butts up and move your hips forwards into the upper thighs. If you have backache you can bend your legs at the knees.
- As you bend feel the stretch in your back. Keep your back straight in line with your head and neck, the torso with head and neck now seeing the ground and parallel with it. Here your chest is floating over your feet. Widen the space between your pubis and sternum giving your torso a stretch. Feel the fold and stretch from your hip bone. Exhale as you bend further. While inhaling lift up your butts and tail bone towards the ceiling. This will help you move your body down. Your lower abdomen and pelvis are now closer to your upper thighs. Drop your body down with every exhalation.
Read – Tiryaka Tadasana Swaying Palm Tree Pose, Method, Benefits, Side Effects
Suggestion and caution – Keep your feet and its arches fixed in position, the feet parallel to each other. This will give a perfect balance. If you feel too much stretch in your hamstrings or back, flex your knees. Never hyperextend your knees in an attempt to keep your lower limbs too straight, in case it is getting difficult. You need to understand your body and schedule your bends accordingly. Else you may overdo and end up with injuries.
- When you bend entirely allow your hand to rest on the ground, next to your feet. Now your hands and feet are in a single straight line, on the ground. According to your convenience you may place your hand in front, beside or at the back of your feet (with fingers pointing in opposite direction as of your toes). If your hands are not touching the ground you may fold your hands close to your knee. Alternatively you may use blocks on the floor to ground your hands on them. At this point you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Extend your knees if you are not feeling the stretch but don’t over stretch to hyperextend your knees. Stop the pose wherever you feel at discomfort.
- Turn your thighs inwards and root yourself into your heels.
- Leave your head to dangle while relaxing your neck. Your crown should reach the floor. Be in a position wherein you can look through your legs. In this position your abdomen is in close opposition to the front of your thighs.
- Stay in this position for 4-5 breaths.
When you bend forward into your final pose –
- Your hands may go outside your legs. To do this, drag your hands backwards from where you have placed them on the ground (in front or beside the feet). Take your hands behind your feet and hold your ankles. This hold will help you as a key to stretch your spine ahead or flex it deeply towards your legs.
- In the same position as explained above, you may put out your elbows ahead and put your head in between your legs, if your flexibility allows you to do it.
- Alternatively, put your hands beneath your soles such that you step your feet on your palms. From this position stretch your spine further and then relax.
- Another variant is to grab your big toes with your fingers and lift the toes up. This too will help you give a stretch to your spine.
Advanced pose variation
Lean forward and lift your body on the balls of your feet as you pull the heels about half an inch off the floor. This increases the stretch in the back and neck. Also pull the inner groins into your pelvis. Then, from the groin height, stretch and lengthen your heels back on the floor.
Release from the asana
- With hands placed on the ground, first straighten the back slowly and bring it parallel to the ground. Contract the core and the abdominal muscles. As you raise your back your butts and tailbone are brought down.
- Slowly remove your hands from the ground and bring them over your shin.
- Straighten the back further. The lower abdomen and pelvis are pressing in at this juncture.
- Raise your hands from your shin and place them on your waist.
- With inhalation slowly come up raising your body gently.
- Exhale and relax your hands by the side of your body. Now you have come back to the point of start i.e. Tadasana.
- Relax for a while in this position.
Read – Types Of Pranayama – Effect on Health – Through An Ayurveda View-Point
Make sure that the forward bend / fold takes its origin from your pelvis, deepening the hip creases. The bend should not come from the back. If the fold comes from the back it will result in a curved spine that hangs over your legs.
- Adhomukha Shvanasana
- Janu Sirsasana
- Supta Padangusthasana
Follow up poses
- Standing poses
- Seated forward bends
Read – Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose, How to do, Benefits
What time should be spent in pose while doing Uttanasana?
Uttanasan can be done for a time period stretching between 10-15 seconds to begin with or for a breath count of 4-5 breaths in the final position. Gradually the time of performance may be extended depending on one’s capacity.
Ardha Uttanasana – is a halfway stage in which the trunk is kept horizontal in the forward bend and the palms rest on the calves.
Niralamba Uttanasana – in which the hands touch the waistband rather than reaching down.
Padahastasana – has the hands under the toes and feet, palms up.
Below mentioned are the benefits of Uttanasan –
- Stretches your back, hips, calf muscles and hamstring muscles
- Strengthens the thighs and knees
- Gives a good massage to the organs of digestion, improves digestion
- Activates kidneys and liver
- Relieves insomnia
- Good remedy for headaches, high blood pressure, sinusitis, asthma, osteoporosis and infertility
- Relieves menstrual disorders and helps in managing problems related to menopause
- Calms mind
- Good cure for anxiety, depression
- Reduces fatigue
- Stretches the entire set of muscles and connective tissues
- Provides relaxation and relieves stress
Impact on Chakras
Uttanasan is beneficial in activating and balancing Muladhara Chakra i.e. root chakra. It also balances the energy at Swadhishtana i.e. Sacral Chakra.
Patients suffering from below mentioned conditions should avoid doing Uttanasana –
- Low back injury
- Prolapsed disc
- Hamstring tear
- Detached retina
Note – If you have a back injury the asana can be done with bent knees. Alternatively one may resort to Ardha Uttanasana by placing the hands on a wall instead of on the floor. Here the person is doing half the pose and hence completing half forward bend. In this pose the legs are perpendicular to one’s torso.
Serious hip problems
- Serious spinal problems
- Hip and spinal injuries
- Abdominal injury
- Neck injury
- High blood pressure
- Serious brain diseases
- Peptic / duodenal ulcers
Pregnant woman should keep away from this pose.
Impact on Doshas, Tissues
Impact on doshas – Standing Forward Bend Pose will balance Vata and its subtypes and also the functions governed by them.
Since it stretches and strengthens the hip and muscles of the lower limb and also regulates the menstrual cycle and is a remedy for menstrual disorders, and also since it balances the Muladhara Chakra located in the lower part of the body (spine), Uttanasana balances the Apana Vata located in the lower portion of the body. Apana Vata too governs the above said functions. Balancing Apana Vata by regular practice of this asana too can bring about the mentioned benefits.
Since this asana improves digestion and liver functions, it has a balancing effect on samana vata and pachaka pitta, and also functions of ranjaka pitta.
This asana being a good remedy for stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia the asana is beneficial to balance prana vata. It also balances the prana vata – sadhaka pitta – tarpaka kapha axis.
Since the asana provides relief from fatigue and cures blood pressure and relaxes the body, it balances the samana vata.
By balancing udana vata and avalambaka kapha it cures asthma and supports the lung functions.
Impact on Tissues – Since this asana provides strength to bones, spine and muscles and also stretches the muscles it is beneficial for the health of bone and muscle tissues and also for the channels carrying bones and muscle tissues.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu)