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Uttanasana / Hastapadasana

Also known as: Hastapadasana / Padahastasana / Standing Forward Bend / Hand to Feet

Alignment: Bilateral Symmetry

Type: Standing Forward Bend

DSC_6202Uttanasana is not only an important classical yoga posture but also is an integral part of traditional Suryanamaskar (position no.3 & position no.10). The ability to perform is based on one’s measure of flexibility. Also, it is a coveted dream of many, who aspire to be able to touch their toes with their hands, without bending their knees.

Method

Step 1: Stand in Samsthiti

Step 2: Feet touching at heels and the toes (in case of any balancing issues, keep your feet slightly apart but parallel to each other).

Step 3: Place your palms on your waist; lengthen your body towards the ceiling.

Step 4: Maintain the length of the body, squeeze the end part of your hips to push your pelvis in front, hold on to this protrusion with firmness; now lengthen and push forward the area from the navel to the area below your chest. This next forward protrusion is an attempt to align the curvature of your upper body with the curvature of your pelvis. Towards the end, push your chest out in front and then up towards the ceiling by getting your scapula closer to each other. By this time, your chest would have broadened and body would have automatically got into a backward bend position. At this stage,frontal part of the spine along with your legs and head would be in extension mode and the rear of the body, in contraction mode. The legs will be straight and not bending at the knees. You should not feel any stress in any one particular part of the body. In case, it so happens, it is an indication that you have not been able to engage that area to its optimal and that particular area is taking all the brunt weight of the entire body.

Step 5: Softly lengthen the frontal part of your neck to slide your chin gently up towards the ceiling. No stress at the neck at all.

Step 6: Holding on to this position, continue to look up, exhale and push your navel into the spine, which in turn, would push your hips to the back. The hips are the first area to move from the forward curvature to the back. As you start pushing your hips to the back, the upper part of the body will start bending forward. Keep stretching the hips to the back to bring the upper part of your body parallel to the floor. Remember, your back should be in a concave position as you push your hips out to the maximum and then up towards the ceiling. Simultaneously, you are looking up from your frontal torso. Lengthen the spine in vertical position as if you are aligning the sit bones with your crown.

Step 7: Tucking your tummy further in, place and then push your stomach onto the thighs (your Moolbandha and Uddiyan bandha will automatically be activated by this time). Further, lengthen the area above the stomach; with a long exhalation, place your chest on the knees.

Step 7: You can place your palms by the side of your feet (if you are unable to touch the floor, use two blocks to place your palms or hold your legs wherever you can).

(One can pause here for few seconds and furher lengthen the upper part of the body (some part of chest, neck and head) towards the ceiling while keep the rest part of the body from lower back onwards on locked to the thigh. This position is called: Ardha Uttanasana / Urdhva Uttanasana).

Step 9: At the end, drop your head down towards the floor so that the forehead is resting somewhere on your shin (in case you want to experience extreme stretch at this point, shift on your chin from the forehead to rest it on the shin).

Step 10: The upper part of your body is firmly glued to the lower part of the body.

Step 11: In case, you are comfortable placing your palms on the floor, walk your palms to the back until you are on your fingertips; now push your finger tips firmly on the floor to push your body weight slightly in front (oscillating your body weight forward and backward in a controlled manner works on opening your hamstrings from different angles).

Step 12: You can also wrap your arms around your calves, in a way, that you are holding your elbows with the opposite fingers. Create a tight lock here and then start sliding the elbows down towards the ankles. This will give a firm, deep and a strong massage to your abdominal region.

Step 13: Hold the posture for 30 seconds to 1 minute, with normal breathing.

Releasing the posture

Step 14: Bring your palms by the side of your feet; press it down firmly (especially heels of the palms) to separate and raise the upper part of your body upward towards the ceiling with an inhalation (focus on core engagement during this process).

Step 15: Release your palms and place them on your waist.

Step 16: Push your thighs into your body and simultaneously, with an exhalation, get your body in a straight position solely by engaging your core for this movement.

Step 17: Relax your arms and feel the rejuvenation effect, of this posture, on your body.

Benefits

Extends the rear of your body: The rear of your entire body is in constant lengthening position and the gluteal muscles, the hamstrings as well as the calves can have the maximum stretch possible.

  1. Hamstrings: Each calculated forward movement increases the intensity of the hamstring stretch. Irrespective of the fact whether you can touch your toes or place your palms by the side of your feet, you can experience the behinds of your legs. The only point to be kept in mind is to keep your forward bend slow and to ensure that your hips are gliding out simultaneously.
  2. Central Hamstrings: Pressing a brick between your thighs activates the adductors and the central hamstrings
  3. Calves: In the process of reaching your final destination, you may be tempted to raise your heels at the back, which is not an issue, however, it is imperative to bring your heels down by lengthening the arch of the feet so that you can engage your feet to the maximum and then place the mid part of your heels firmly on the floor. This can bring you an isolated stretch at the calves.
  4. Gluteal Firing: Our gluteal muscles have lost its firing capacity because of being glued to the chair for hours to days to years. As a result, other group of muscles are forced to compensate for this slackness of glutes. In the journey of this posture, wherein you are constantly pushing your sit bones up towards the ceiling, while at the same time you are pushing your feet into the floor to lengthen the area between the two, your glutes are on fire and works extensively on gluteus maximum which has a very critical role in taking care of the lower part of your body.

The above stretches when done regularly work towards:

  1. Preventing back stiffness and lubricating your spine
  2. Helping deal with heel spur (calcaneal spur)
  3. Eliminating heel pain
  4. This is effective in case of plantar fascia
  5. You can also get relieve from Achilles tendon

Contracts the front of your body: The frontal part of the body gets into a rolling mode to allow extension of the rear part of the body.

  1. Core: You can feel each and every muscles of your abdominal region in the process of going forward and down, as every single movement is initiated from the abdomen, in which, you tuck the abdomen into the maximum, automatically applying Uddiyan Bandh as if you are trying to touch the vertebrae in that particular area with the outer layer of your skin.
  2. Quadriceps: Your quadriceps are shortening concentrically making them stronger with every movement.
  3. Reproductive Organs: This massaging effect of your abdomen against your thighs increases oxygenated blood flow in the reproductive area and gives a very good massage to your reproductive organ. Women can greatly benefit in case of suffering from hormonal imbalance, menstrual disorder, PMS, infertility etc.
  4. As a result of back stretch and core engagement, you automatically secure a strong back and can prevent and eliminate all kind of back problems.

Insomnia: Forward bend in this condition increases the blood flow in your brain which helps in calming your brain nerves and helps deal with Insomnia.

High Blood Pressure: Uttanasana is one of the recommended postures to counter High Blood Pressure

Healthy Knee: The lengthening at the back of the leg and contraction in the frontal part works on improving the health of the knees by preventing knee pain and strengthening as well as stretching the surrounding areas.

Diabetes: Core engagement in this posture, woks on activating pancreas and spleen, which in turn, is helpful for diabetics.

Indigestion: The abdominal massage helps in improving the functioning of digestive system and thereby, prevent indigestion, acidity, gas.

Contraindications

Please do not perform if suffering from:

  1. Cardiac problem
  2. Back Problem
  3. Hernia
  4. Vertigo
  5. Ulcer
  6. Abdominal inflammation
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