To perform the standing forward bend pose, we divided the practice into four phases: pose preparation, asana steps, relax poses, and alignment cues. Follow these steps in chronological order for the best results:
Part 1 - Preparatory Poses for Uttanasana
As its name implies, the intense stretch pose is a moderate to extreme level stretch for new yogis. The activation of muscles in your lower body and back is crucial to minimize unwanted injuries.
Below are three yoga poses for getting your lower back, legs, and hamstrings warmed up:
1. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) -
Start by sitting down on your yoga mat and flex your legs straight in the Staff Pose. Inhale deeply and raise both of your arms slowly over your head. Now, exhale as you start bending forward and gently rest your head on your knees.
Keep your arms stretched out in front and hold this pose for a minute. This pose will open your hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and lower back.
2. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) -
Stand on your yoga mat and make sure your spine is upright, your core is engaged, and your shoulders are not slouching. Keep your arms at your sides, close your eyes, and focus on your breath passing through your nostrils.
If you want to stretch your upper body even further, raise your arms over your head and hold this posture for at least two minutes.
3. Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend) - This is a semi-standing forward bend for newbies. It’s best if your low back feels tight and bending forward feels challenging for you.
Continue from Mountain Pose and bend your upper body from your waist, holding this pose for 30 to 60 seconds. This pose will activate many of the essential muscles for your main practice.
Part 2: Step-by-Step Instructions to Perform Uttanasana
The following are steps for practicing the Intense Stretch Pose:
Step 1- Stand in the middle of your mat, with your weight balanced equally between your feet, and keep your arms relaxed at the sides of your glutes.
Step 2- Press into the yoga mat with the outer edges of your feet. Take a few deep breaths here and ensure you are standing straight.
Step 3- Inhale, keeping your knees slightly bent, and place your hands on your hips (especially for beginners).
Step 4- Now, gently exhale as you bend at your waist, bringing your chest parallel with the mat and pulling your shoulder blades together.
Step 5- Let your chest relax on your thighs and extend your arms down onto the mat, placing your fingertips or hands on the mat.
Step 6- Stay bent without hyperextending your hamstrings, and hold this pose until your whole body feels relaxed.
Step 7- Now, take another deep breath and then release the pose by rising back up in the Mountain Pose.
Inhale: When you stand in the Mountain Pose and raise your hand overhead.
Exhale: When you bend your upper body toward the ground.
Performance Duration for Beginners: Hold Uttanasana for 30 to 60 seconds.
Performance Duration for Advanced: Hold Uttanasana for 1 to 5 minutes.
Part 3: Things to Keep in Mind
In order to avoid unwanted injuries while you practice Uttanasana, it’s important to keep in mind the following alignment tips.
Avoid locking your joints: Your knee joints are one of the essential components of this pose, taking the weight of your whole body while you are standing in the intense stretch pose.
It’s essential to avoid overstressing your knee joints unnecessarily by locking them. So, make sure you maintain a very slight bend in your knees while bending your upper body toward the ground.
Don't overstretch your hamstrings: While you hinge from your torso and come onto your thighs, you will feel a moderate to intense flexion in your hamstrings and lower back.
If this flexion is too much for you to handle, simply minimize the level of bending forward. Hinge only half of your body at first and gently work your way closer to your thighs. With time, you'll feel less tension in your low back and hamstrings.
Part 4: Relaxing Poses After Uttanasana
The Standing Forward Bend is itself used as a relaxing pose in between yoga flows and after your asana practice. Therefore, not much is needed for the body to relax after performing this pose.
But if you’d still like to add some counter-yoga poses to keep your body in neutral shape after Uttanasana, try practicing this asana:
1. Anuvittasana (Standing Backbend): This is a standing backbend yoga pose in which the head, arms, neck, and upper body are dropped back.
During standing backbend practice, the lower back is hinged in the counter direction of Uttanasana. It will help you align your lower back and sacrum back in a neutral shape.