UTTANASANA

Steps

  1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) keeping the feet together and expanding the upper body upwards. Take a few breaths.
  2. Inhale and raise the arms above your head.
  3. As you exhale, bend forward at your hips and move your upper body forward and downward, chest moving toward your legs, forehead toward your knees. Place the palms beside or behind your feet on the mat.
  4. Pull the belly in toward the spine to engage your core whilst in the forward fold.
  5. Feel the stretch in the hamstrings and gluteus maximus. These muscles are supporting your spine in the pose.
  6. Inhale and lift your head and chest up slightly, fingers on the mat in front of your feet. As you exhale, return the chest toward your legs and fold deeper into the pose. 
  7. Repeat these movement for 6 breaths, releasing the pose slightly on each inhale and deepening the pose on each exhale.

Modifications:

  • For tight hamstrings, bend the knees
  • Use wall for lack of balance, placing back against wall and placing the hands around the ankles to get a grip.
  • If placing the feet together is difficult to balance, then placing a block it between the insides of the lower thighs.
  • If the pressure on the feet is too much, use a blanket below the feet to help reduce the stress on the soles.
  • If the back is not strong enough, then going half way down is more useful along with lifting of the head. Once the body gains the strength, the complete forward bend can be slowly achieved.
  • Using the chair or a stool or even the wall for going half way down can be first practiced. This will slowly open the back muscles and the leg muscles.
  • Using the palm strength to pull the body forward can be damaging to the hip and the lower back, hence keep the body loose while going down and let the spine take its time to stretch forward.
  • If reaching the floor with the palms is a challenge, using blocks placed close to the feet will help in enjoying the pose.
  • If the throwing of the head down is a challenge, place a chair for the head supporting it with cushion. Placing the chair in front of you and then going down, gradually placing the head on the cushion placed on the chair will avoid sudden gush of blood to the brain.

Benefits

  • Lengthens the entire back side of the body at once – from heels to calves, to hamstrings to hips, and all along the spine.
  • Increases blood flow to the brain, soothing the brain cells and sympathetic nervous system.
  • Alleviates depression and anxiety if practiced regularly.
  • Increases circulation to the abdominal organs including the spleen, pancreas, liver, intestines and kidneys.
  • This pose is great for runners, as the hamstrings are stretched to the maximum thus making them strong to withstand any kind of shocks whilst running.

When to Avoid

  • Avoid this pose or do it bending the knees if experiencing pain in the lower back.
  • Not to be practiced if one has knee or hamstring injury.
  • The expansion of the gluteus can be painful if one has weak hip bone strength, thus it is better to avoid if one is not confident of his hips and muscles around the gluteus.
  • Someone with migraine should avoid this pose as the pressure to the head with sudden flow of fresh blood may create more stress leading to heavy head.
  • Pressure at the abdominal area may not be good for someone with severe abdominal ailments as this pressure could bring in more irritation to the stomach lining or the intestines.
  • Not to be done if just had a meal, as the pressure towards the tummy can cause indigestion.
  • Someone with neck problems should avoid this pose as the neck and the head hang downwards, which may aggravate the stress.
  • Advisable to avoid this pose if the joints are not strong enough or there is an injury at any joint.
  • Any kind of injury to the shoulder or the upper back will bring more stress hence better to avoid.
  • Avoid with high blood pressure