Standing Forward Bend


"A significant number of earnest spiritual seekers take up the practice of yoga. Unfortunately many stop because exactly the right things happen." - Kripalu

Standing Forward Bend

HOW TO PRACTICE Standing Forward Bend IN YOGA (Uttanasana)

Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Standing Forward Bend


Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) with block between thighs

Standing Forward Bend (Sanskrit name: Uttanasana) is one of the most common yoga poses in any yoga class. It’s especially common in Vinyasa-style yoga classes that rely heavily on Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations). 

Standing Forward Bend acts as a transition from asanas such as Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) or Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose) to standing postures in all of the Sun Salutation series, so this pose shows up a lot in these yoga classes, along with its cousin, Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Bend). With its cooling qualities, Standing Forward Bend is also a good counterpose to offset a vigorous yoga practice or sequence.

Although we tend to think of Standing Forward Bend as a yoga pose that anyone can do, it’s actually counter-indicated for people who have some types of disc issues. In addition, people with short or inflexible hamstrings must pay close attention to the cues their bodies are sending, as overdoing forward bends can contribute to low back pain.

Standing Forward Bend is an intense forward bending yoga posture, and requires a significant amount of hamstring flexibility. For the health of your back, it’s important to hinge forward from the pelvis, rather than bending forward from your waist. 

This precaution, which applies to all forward bends, is especially important in Uttanasana because the gravitational pull on the upper body can place extra pressure on the lumbar discs. Practicing this yoga pose with blocks under your hands to lessen the potential for disc compression is both common and appropriate for many yogis.

Benefits of Standing Forward Bend

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Standing Forward Bend stretches the hips, hamstrings, and calves, and can release tension in the spine and neck. Forward bending yoga poses also have a calming effect on the nervous system and mind. Uttanasana can also help relieve fatigue due to its inverted nature. In this forward bend there is a gentle compression of the abdomen which can help to stimulate digestion. This yoga posture also strengthens the thighs and calves. Use this asana to take a quick break at work. Notice its effects on your energy levels, focus, and mental clarity. Stretching the muscles of the legs and hips will also help you feel more comfortable in your office chair!

How to do Standing Forward Bend

  1. Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the blueprint pose for all standing yoga poses. Press down through the four corners of your feet, paying particular attention to the big toe mounds and inner heels. Spin your inner thighs back toward the wall behind you. Lift your kneecaps to engage your thighs, and to protect against hyperextension in your knees.
  2. Place your hands on the front of your hip joints, and press into the hip creases. Draw the tops of your thighs back so that the top of your sacrum is tilting forward. When you palpate the hip creases, the tissue there should feel springy rather than taut.
  3. Begin to bend forward, keeping the sides of your hips over your ankles. Make sure you bend forward by tilting your pelvis forward, not by bending from the waist. If you can’t tilt your pelvis forward when your knees are straight, bend your knees so that you can move your pelvis and spine together.
  4. If your hamstrings are tight, place your hands on two yoga blocks on their highest height. Make sure you are not rounding the lumbar spine. If that means bending your knees, that is fine. The health of your spine, in particular the health of the intervertebral discs in your lumbar spine, is way more important than keeping your legs straight.
  5. If you are practicing this yoga pose with straight legs, make sure your weight hasn’t shifted back into your heels, and that your knees are slightly bent versus locked back. 
  6. Once in the asana, think of reaching your ischial tuberosities (sit bones) up away from the ground, focusing on creating a stretch in the belly of your hamstring muscles. Bend your knees if you need to in order to reach your hips up and create a stretch in the backs of your legs. 
  7. Stay for several breaths. 
  8. To come out of Uttanasana, ground down firmly into your feet and rise back up to standing with a long spine, swinging your hips under your shoulders as you arrive again in Tadasana.

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