The Humble Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Here’s a secret for you: sometimes my daily yoga practice consists of one asana – Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana.
In yoga classes Uttanasana is often used as a transition pose (to get you from the floor to standing for example) and although it feels good, often we don’t stay in this pose long enough to really feel the benefits.
Not only does Uttanasana stretch the hamstrings, thighs and hips, it also strengthens the thighs and the knees, improves digestion, stimulates important organs such as the liver and kidneys and is said to be therapeutic for those that suffer from asthma. But thats not why I do it.
I practice Uttanasana because some days I just feel flat, down, unhappy or what ever you want to call it and the Standing Forward Bend makes me feel better. Within 8 breathes of hanging upside down, going inwards and just breathing I can feel fatigue and stress slide off me. My mind quietens down and I can just quietly observe whats going on. I hang here for as long as I can, bending my knees, straightening them, holding my elbows and then just having my arms dangle overhead, heavy and relaxed. Once I’m sufficiently bent I creep my way up to a standing position (sometimes throw a balance in there!) and finish with my eyes closed in Mountain (or Tadasana) gently bringing my palms together at my hearts centre, taking a breathe….exhale nice and slow and open my eyes. Simple and effective yoga practice.
- Standing tall, feet hip width apart, tail bone tucked in, bring the shoulders up to the ears and then roll them back down the back, arms down by your side. Take a few breathes here, take your time and connect.
- Inhale and raise the arms up, finger tips reaching for the ceiling. Exhale and bend forward from the hips, bend the knees (if needed) as you forward fold, keep the arms up over head as you fold down. Use a block (as in picture) if you have one handy and it feels comfortable.
- Focus on lengthening the torso as you settle into this position. Keep the knees bent and as you inhale and exhale, extend and soften. Let the head hang heavy, arms hanging overhead or take hold of each elbow.
- Enjoy just being in the standing forward fold, focus on your breath to help you stay present. When you are ready, using at least three breaths slowly begin to walk your hands up the body and come to a standing position. Bring your palms together at your heart centre and close the eyes for a few breaths.