Submitted by Jeff Lutes, SOYA, ERYT500. Photo of Carla Wainwright in Uttanasana. Jeff and Carla will be leading the SOYA 200 hour yoga teacher training in sunny La Manzanilla, Mexico this January.
This is one of my favourite poses. It is simple yet provides for an amazing opportunity for self exploration. Uttanasana is a great pose to explore the polarity between active and passive energy. It has many modifications that are important to know and understand so everyone can do it. This pose is both a forward bend and an inversion. It is quite often my second pose in my standing poses.
From Tadasana where I create symmetrical alignment we move into Uttanasana where I take the opportunity over several minutes and breaths to find what I have within me for my practice. Here are a few pointers for exploring this pose:
- Stand in Tadasana. Feet are parallel to the long edges of the mat, hip distance apart, weight evenly distributed from the heel to ball of the foot. Wiggle the toes. Engage quadriceps. On the wave of the breath extend the crown of the head to the sky, and soften the shoulder blades.
- Place thumbs in the groin crease. Inhale, then exhale and bend where your thumbs are. Keep your feet grounded and legs active; extend forward, not down, yet. Place your hands either above or below your knees and stay here. This is Ardha Uttanasana, half forward fold. Lengthen the spine from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head. Bend your knees if you experience discomfort in the low back, hamstrings or back of the knees.
- As you inhale engage core strength, energize the quadriceps and lengthen. As you exhale tilt the pelvis forward and release deeply into the pose. Find a comfortable and spacious place to pause. Feel the crown of the head release to the force of gravity.
- When it strikes you find greater depth. Explore within the pose. You will be surprised what you find. Alternate between active energy-creating space, and passive energy-floating within the space you create. Breathe. Deep inhalations. Smooth exhalations.
- To come back to Tadasana soften the knees as much as required to slide the hands up the legs above the knees. With the palms securely placed above the knees straighten the arms and spine. With a neutral spine energize into the feet and come to a standing position.
Caution: Lower Back, Hyperextension of knees, blood pressure.
Modifications: Bend knees for low back and knees. Keep upper body level to ensure that the heart does not go below the head for blood pressure issues. This pose can also be done with a chair, sitting and folding forward over the thighs.
Benefits: Lengthens and creates room in spine. Massages abdomen. Stretches hamstrings. Allows for introspection.