The first standing forward bend, Uttanasana, is anything but simple. It stretches the entire back side of the body – heel to the head. Intensely working on all the leg muscles, this posture soothes the nervous system and the mind. While most people gauge their flexibility through this asana, tapping into the deep sense of grounding it brings is essential.
HOW TO DO THE ASANA
- Keep your feet together. Distribute your weight evenly. In case you lose balance this way, it is okay to keep the feet slightly apart. Either way, make sure your feet are straight, with the toes pointing forward.
- Bend forward, keeping the spine straight and drop the hands next to the feet or on blocks. As you bend forward, you may bend your knees slightly to support the back muscles.
- Aim to bend mostly from the hip, at the beginning. To aid this hip movement, stretch the glutes, and voluntarily lift the hip up in a backward and upward direction.
- If you feel like the stretch in your legs is too much, bend your knees further, without dropping the hip down.
- Lengthen the spine so as to move the head towards the floor (and not the knee)
- In case the head is moving slightly away from the legs, that is okay. The length of the spine is more important than bringing the head to the knee.
- Once in the posture, intensify the engagement by pulling up the knee-caps (the quadricep muscles)
- Pull the abdomen gently backward towards the spine and keep lifting the rib-cage away from the abdomen to lengthen the spine further.
- Make sure that there are no creases on the back side of the neck, thereby relaxing the muscles of the neck.
- Once here, look at the nose-tip (nasikagre drishti).
- In case you feel that the back is rounding, use blocks under the hand and stretch your hands forward, to make sure the spine becomes straight.
- When you have a cold or headache, you will feel very uncomfortable with your head hanging forward. Rest your head on a block or a chair. Same rule applies if have vertigo or a fluctuating BP.
Uttanasana,is very powerful. It helps to:
- Stretch and tone the entire back of the body.
- Cures stomach pains, including menstrual cramps.
- Tones the liver, the spleen and the kidneys.
- Because of the reversal of blood flow, the mind is refreshed.
- Relaxes the nervous system and reduces stress.
- Improves balance and coordination.
- Pacifies anxiety and depression.
Practice with the utmost care if:
- You have chronic back pain
- You had or have slip-disc or hernia
- You have a recurring knee pain or arthritis.
- You have injured your ankles.
- You are pregnant (there would be many changes to how you do this asana)
- You have balance issues.
Medha is a teacher at Amrutha Bindu Yoga. She fell in love with yoga on her journey of self-discovery and enjoys spreading the magic.