September’s Yoga Pose of the Month: UTTANASANA – Standing Forward Bend Pose By Katja Huiras

Katja HuirasSeptember’s Yoga Pose of the Month: UTTANASANA – Standing Forward Bend Pose By Katja Huiras

Namaste everyone!

The last few weeks were filled with personal loss and lots of traveling to my family overseas.  So my yoga practice had to take a back seat in my life and I allowed my nervous system to be overwhelmed with sadness.  Now I’m back in the area and am ready to get back into things.  …..And geez, did my body and mind stiffen up.  Good that there is Yoga!

For this month’s yoga pose I would like to explore Uttanasana – a standing forward bend pose with you.  My hamstrings sure can use this work out and the fact that forward bends have a soothing effect on the nervous system, suits me very well.  So join me in a practice of aligning and refining Uttanasana.

uttanasana 1Our path into the pose:

Note: since I’m a bit stiff, I will practice this pose mostly with my feet hip distant apart.  The full pose is practiced with the feet together.

 

  1. Stand in Tadasana/Mountain Pose. On an inhale reach the arms overhead.  Use this opportunity to lengthen the sides of your torso.
  1. uttanasana 2Then on an exhale – keeping front, back and sides of your torso long- bend over forward. Place your fingertips on the floor next to your feet.
  1. Now inhale as you lift your head, roll your collar bones up towards the ceiling and lift your chest. This is the concave back stage of the pose, sometimes also referred to Ardha Uttanasana.  Here you want to reach your torso forward to lengthen the front of your trunk.

(here I have my hands under my shoulders but if your hamstrings allow, keep your hands next to your feet)

  1. uttanasana 3On your next exhale bring your lower ribs, chest and forehead closer to your legs. Keep reaching the crown of your head down towards the floor.
  1. Stay in the pose for about 30 s.
  1. Then inhale as you come back upright with your arms reaching overhead again. Exhale to bring the arms down by your sides and stand in Tadasana again.

Work in the pose:

  • There could be a tendency to lean backwards, bringing more weight into the heels. So to balance this out, shift your weight more into the toes to bring the legs back towards vertical.  For me the following cue is also very helpful:

Press the front of your thighs back as you reach your sitting bones forward.

  • Lift your kneecaps and draw your thigh muscles up – this encourages your legs to be active rather than just hanging out in the pose
  • There could be a tendency for the front of the legs to roll outward (kneecaps pointing to the sides), so counter this by rolling the front of the thighs from the outside to the inside until your kneecaps point forward. Don’t let your ankles roll out.
  • In Iyengar Yoga you really have to work diligently to open the back of your knees so that your legs are straight!!!!! My daughter took the pose photos for me this time around and guess what she kept reminding me about constantly:….STRAIGHTEN YOUR LEGS, Mom!
  • uttanasana 4

    Variation 1

    Keep your front body long. If you bend forward at the waist rather than tilting your pelvis forward, your frontal hip bones and front bottom ribs come close to each other—avoid this by finding length here instead.

  • In the concave back stage, isometrically pull hands back to lengthen the front body. Then to proceed into the final stage, now isometrically push your hands forward to bring your trunk closer to the legs

 

 

uttanasana 5

Variation 2

Ways of practicing the pose:

  • Here are some restorative variations of the pose

( In this variation your feet are about a foot apart. Hold onto the opposite elbows.  Slightly pull on your elbows to encourage the length in your trunk draping downward. {It could be hard to balance, so legs might not be vertical})

I love practicing this variation

I love practicing this variation

( Placing a support under your head allows you to stay in the pose quite a long time and it feels very relaxing. {Place the support as high or as low as you need}. This variation is also a good Sirsasana/headstand alternative.)

I love practicing this variation.

  • Uttanasana 7

    This variation is great for tight hamstrings

    In the concave back stage place blocks under your shoulders for your hands.

This variation is great for tight hamstrings

  •  Use a strap under your feet. It is really helpful to pull on the strap for the concave back stage
Uttanasana

Use a strap under your feet. It is really helpful to pull on the strap for the concave back stage

(notice how my legs tilt backwards- this is a  balance issue)

  • Placing you toes on a rolled up yoga mat increases the opening of the backs of the knees.This variation can be used as a preparation to improve the final pose
  • Uttanasana 8

    Placing you toes on a rolled up yoga mat increases the opening of the backs of the knees.This variation can be used as a preparation to improve the final pose

    Standing on a chair: pulling on the sides of the chair seat can help deepen your pose.  If you have very flexible hamstrings you can “walk” your hands down the front chair legs. This variation is from Eyal Shifroni’s book, A Chair for Yoga

 

Uttanasana 9

Standing on a chair: pulling on the sides of the chair seat can help deepen your pose.


Sources:

  1. Yoga, The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira andShyam Mehta, published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 1990
  1. The different variations and the prep work were inspired by the Iyengar classes I attend regularly

Katja Huiras is a 500 hr certified Yoga teacher who teaches alignment based yoga classes in the Lehigh Valley.  In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.

 

 

Missed last month’s column? Read it Now:

August’s Yoga Pose of the Month: VIRABHADRASANA 3 – Warrior 3 pose By Katja Huiras

July’s Yoga Pose of the Month: JANU SIRSASANA – Head of the Knee Pose by Katja Huiras

June’s Yoga Pose of the Month: SUKHASANA – Easy Seat, By Katja Huiras

May’s Yoga Pose of the Month: VRKSASANA – Tree Pose by Katja Huiras

April’s Yoga Pose of the Month: Salamba Sarvangasana with a chair – Chair Shoulderstand by Katja Huiras

MARCH’S YOGA POSE OF THE MONTH: VIRABHADRASANA 1 – WARRIOR 1 POSE By Katja Huiras

FEBUARY’S YOGA POSE OF THE MONTH: PARSVOTTANASANA – EXTENDED SIDE STRETCH POSE By Katja Huiras

January’s Yoga Pose of the Month: SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA – Bridge Pose By Katja Huiras

December’s Yoga Pose of the Month: SALAMBA  SIRSASANA—Supported Headstand

November’s Yoga Pose of the Month: Ustrasana – Camel Pose

October Yoga Pose of the Month: UTTHITA TRIKONASANA – Extended Triangle Pose

September Yoga Pose of the Month: SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA—Lying Down Bound Angle Pose

August Yoga Pose-of-the-Month: Marichysana 3 – a Seated Twist Dedicated to the Sage Marichi

July’s Yoga Pose of the Month: ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA – Downward Facing Dog Pose

June’s Yoga Pose of the Month: VIRABHADRASANA 2 – Warrior 2 Pose