Target Your Hamstrings With These 7 Uttanasana Variations in Yoga

The hamstrings are a group of muscles running along the thighs’ backside. Many people complain that these muscles are short and tight—likely because we passively contract this muscle group when we sit (and most of us spend much time each day sitting!).

Luckily, yoga can help to target and elongate these stubborn muscles. While traditional poses like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) benefit these muscles, they may not be enough on their own.

Sometimes, we need to add variety and small, subtle movements to these classic postures to target not only all of the individual muscles of the hamstring group but also to target many different aspects of the muscle fibers themselves. 

Try These 7 Different Uttanasana Pose Variations to Target Your Hamstrings

For these variations, you will need four blocks (or thick, sturdy books). These variations are progressive, so move slowly and mindfully. 

You do not need to use every Uttanasana variation to target your hamstrings effectively, so stay at any point that feels appropriate for your body.

Uttanasana Pose Variation 1 with Stacked BlocksUttanasana Variation with stacked blocks to get a good spinal stretch and also a deep hamstring stretch.

  1. Place two blocks on their lowest height setting at the top of your mat, slightly narrower than the width of your mat. Stack another two blocks on top of them on either their medium or high height setting.
  2. Rest your hands onto the block formations and align your shoulders over your wrists.
  3. Walk your feet toward the back of your mat until you roughly stack your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles. Straighten your legs as much as you comfortably can. 
  4. Spread your toes and root down into the tripod base of your feet. Equalize your weight between both legs.
  5. Fluctuate between rounding your spine and arching your back to feel how this affects the stretch in your body. 

Variation 2 Targets Hip Tension

  1. When you feel your hamstrings have been warmed enough by spinal undulations, tilt your pelvis forward, subtly arch your lower back, and hold here.
  2. Play with swinging your pelvis from right to left to identify any unilateral places of tension. Pause and hold in any stretches that feel good for your body. 

Uttanasana Pose Variation 3 with Fewer BlocksDeepen your stretch in Uttanasana with this variation using fewer blocks thus a bigger stretch.

  1. If you feel open enough, you may remove one layer of blocks from your stack and bring your hands closer to the ground.

Variation 4  Rock on Your Toes and Heels

  1. Play with rocking your weight forward toward your toes and then back toward your heels to notice any sensation changes in your stretch. If it feels good, you can lean your weight forward toward your toes and stay and hold there.

Uttanasana Pose Variation 5 Brings the Blocks Closer Sporty beautiful young woman in white sportswear doing a variation of Standing Half Forward Bendor Ardha Uttanasana pose with wooden blocks.

  1. You can move your blocks closer to your feet while maintaining length through your spine if appropriate. You can always rise to your fingertips and elongate your spine forward (returning to your starting position) to readjust your pelvic tilt and spinal length. 

Variation 6 Hands to the Floor

  1. If you feel open, you can remove the blocks completely and release your fingertips or hands to the floor. With such a deep forward fold, your back will inevitably be forced to round at this point, but still strive to keep as much length through your spine as possible. Allow the fold to happen at your hips through your forward pelvic tilt rather than your spine.

Variation 7 Change the Target of Your Stretch

  1. If you’d like to change the angle of your stretch further, you can cross your right foot behind your left and angle it out to the left side of your mat. This will change the target in your stretch. If you take this variation, repeat it on the other side.

Practice Video: Variety Is the Spice of Life, Especially When It Comes to Targeting Your Hamstrings With Uttanasana Variations

Play with any or all of these Uttanasana variations that you like best to target different aspects of your hamstrings. 

Variable movement is incredibly healthy for your tissues, so working with different variations in your yoga practice keeps your practice fresh and exciting and keeps your body in optimal health.

Use these variations or move your body organically to create your own Uttanasana variations. You’ll likely be surprised by how much it affects your flexibility and stability. 

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP, yoga writer

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit

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