Trying to listen to alignment cues in a yoga class and understanding the right positioning can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re a complete beginner and simply trying to just keep up!
That’s why every month I will break down a pose, show you how to get into it safely, highlight its benefits and offer one or two top tips. Continuing our series of standing poses, let’s take a look at Standing Forward Fold, also referred to as Uttanasana in Sanskrit.
Establishing the Foundation of the Pose
- To begin, you can stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your hands on your hips and establish a firm foundation
- You can have a slight bend in the knees, if you wish
Moving into the Pose
- As you exhale, bend your knees and begin to fold forward from the hip joints rather than the lower back
- As you bend forward, keep the spine and the front of the torso long
- Here, you can bend your elbows and hold each elbow with the opposite hand
- Let the crown of your head extend towards the floor
- With weight evenly distributed across all four corners of the feet, ground your heels as you begin to extend the sit bones towards the ceiling (or sky – depending on where you are!)
- Try not to lock your knees
- If this is comfortable for you, place your hands on the ground, next to your feet
- If this is too much, place your hands on the backs of the legs at the calves
Maintaining the Pose
- If your hands are on the ground, see if you can bring your fingertips in line with the toes and press the palms into the mat while still keeping the knees straight and some length in the spine and the front of the torso
- Direct your breath into any areas of tension or tightness, most likely the hamstrings (backs of the thighs)
- Bring a little more weight into the balls of the feet to ensure the hips are in alignment over the ankles
- With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the torso
- With each exhalation release into the pose a little more keeping the spine long and trying not to round the back, extending the crown of the head towards the floor
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears
- Stay here for a couple of breaths
Completing the Pose
- When you are ready to come out of the pose, exhale fully
- On the inhalation, place your hands on your hips and keeping the back flat and the spine long, extend through the crown of the head while drawing down through the tailbone
- Avoid rolling the spine as you come up
- As you exhale, release the arms by your sides and return to Tadasana
Benefits of the Pose
- Says hello to your hamstrings
- Stretches the calves and hips
- Strengthens the thighs and knees
- Calms the mind
This can be a challenging pose if you have back issues. A nice modification is to do this pose with bent knees or practice a half forward fold, resting the hands against the wall with the arms parallel to the floor and the legs perpendicular to the torso.
This modification should also be practiced if you have high blood pressure, and it is advisable to avoid any poses that bring the head below the heart.
If you experience low blood pressure, come out of the pose very slowly and pause halfway before returning to Tadasana.