How to Do A Standing Forward Fold in Yoga (Uttanasana)

I am breaking down how to do a standing forward fold in yoga. If I had a favorite yoga (asana) pose, this may be at the top of my list, for an awesome stretch and tone in the legs, but also for just how amazing I feel when I practice this posture.

It is a pose that seems simple, but is powerful for the mind and body. Standing forward fold is called Uttanasana in Sanskrit.

Though most of us have done a standing forward fold many times in workouts and stretching, it is often done incorrectly. 

Here I walk you through with simple steps on how to correctly do a standing forward fold so that you get the most benefit and keep from causing any injury to your body.

Note: Try not to push yourself past your limits. It can take years to get to the full expression of the pose. Try to be patient with yourself, and remember that doing it correctly will give you more benefits than “looking super flexible”.  If you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before practicing any inversions or forms of inversions. If you have any injuries in the legs or lower back, have extremely tight hamstrings, or if you are very new to yoga try this modified version to start and work your way to uttanasana. Variations are just as beneficial, and it is always better to keep yourself safe!

Why I Love This Pose:

  1. Calming: Dropping your head below your heart creates a deeply calming effect. Have you seen on a medical t.v. show when someone is having a panic attack they are told to sit and drop their head between their knees? That is because it works. The body will protect your brain and face from the rush of blood by reducing your blood pressure. This creates a serene feeling.
  2. Beneficial for BOTH sides of the body: The back of the body will feel the most intense stretch as you lengthen the calves, thighs, buttocks, and back muscles. The front of the body, especially the front of the legs will really turn on as they work to stabilize you in the position.

Benefits of Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana):

  • Calms the mind
  • Stretches and rejuvenates the whole body
  • Helps relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia
  • Lengthens the hamstrings and calves
  • Opens the hips
  • Relieves tension in neck and shoulders
  • Stimulates the liver and kidney
  • Improves digestion

To Do:

  1. Stand with feet parallel, hip widths distance apart.
  2. Knees are over your ankles and hips are over your knees.
  3. Exhale bending forward at the HIPS (bend from the hips not from the waist), lengthening the torso.
  4. Do not lock your knees.
  5. If you feel “tight” in the legs or lower back, keep the knees bent. You WILL still get a good stretch.
  6. There are a few different versions you can take with your hands: Bring hands to the floor or to blocks, or grab opposite elbows with opposite hands.
  7. Stay here for 30 – 60 seconds.

Add Ons:

  1. Gently rock the torso side to side releasing the lower back.
  2. Gently shake out the head, moving as if you are saying. “yes and no”.
  3. Blow out the lips or sigh a few times to help release tension and promote relaxation.
Be sure to connect with your breath. Deeply and slowly inhaling and exhaling.
I use standing forward fold pose in every yoga practice that I create. I encourage you not discount it because it isn’t a “flashy” pose.

Try Uttanasana Pose In Many Situations:

  1. Try standing forward fold when you are stressed at work. It is a pose that can be done in small spaces and without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
  2. Try standing forward fold during the “witching hour” at home with the kids. Taking 60 seconds in between the chaos of dinner and bedtime can give you an extra boost of patience and calmness to get through the end of the day.
  3. Try standing forward fold if you are feeling stuck creatively. Can’t come up with the right words for a presentation or can’t seem to concentrate? The change in perspective of turning the head downwards opens up the channel of ideas, and the folding into oneself will promote a sense of safety and trust that will get your inner juices flowing again!
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