Uttanasana (Standing forward fold) and its companion pose Ardha Uttanasana (Half standing forward fold) are wonderful poses to help us relieve SI joint pain and open our hamstrings. By rotating the pelvis out, we open the hamstrings. This openness creates relief for those with sacroiliac (SI) joint issues.
If you have been told that you have a bulging disc in your lumbar spine (low back) this may not be a good posture for you. Depending on how your disc is bulging, this posture could make you feel better, but it could make you feel worse. Proceed with caution.
- Begin in Tadasana, standing nice and tall with your feet inner hip distance apart.
- Lift your toes and feel the four corners of your feet. You should feel a spot under your big toe, under your little toe, and at the inside and outside of your heels.
- Hug the muscles to the bone in your shins and ankles.
- You may release your toes or keep them lifted.
- Make sure you have a soft bend in your knees to prevent hyperextension.
- Draw your belly button to your spine to help engage your abdominals.
- Inhale your arms up to the ceiling. Make sure that your shoulders are away from your ears and your palms face each other.
- Lift the rib cage way from the hips to find a nice length in your side body.
- As you exhale, draw your abdominals in and lower your arms by your side and then down to the floor in front of you as you hinge forward from your hips.
- Rotate your pelvis so that you feel like you’re sticking your butt out to the wall behind you. (This is the key to opening up the hamstrings and relieving low back and SI joint pain.)
- As you inhale and exhale in this posture, think about lengthening the spine and rotating your pelvis out on the inhale. Think of softening and releasing tight muscles on the exhale.
- To come out of the pose: Inhale, draw the low belly to the spine, use the abdominals to lift your straight spine as your arms come out by your sides and circle toward the ceiling. Exhale, lower your hands to heart center or by your side to return to Tadasana.
- Perform steps 1-10 of Uttanasana.
- As you inahle, draw the low belly to the spine and lift your straight spine. Your arms reach straight down from your shoulders with your finger tips lightly touching the mat.
- Exhale and fold in to Uttanasana.
Hand Contact in Uttanasana and Ardha Uttanasana
To be able to place your hands on the floor requires a lot of openness in the hamstrings. Due to increased time sitting, among other things, many people do not have the hamstring flexibility to place their hands on the floor. In this pose, it is very important for the hands to come in contact with something stable.
The connection of the hands to a stable surface is important because it helps your body keep your shoulders in a neutral position on your back. When you go upside down, the tendency will be for your shoulders to go with gravity and slide toward your ears. By placing our hands on something stable, we ask the muscles though our arms and shoulders to stay active and engaged.
Here are two suggestions to help you connect your hands:
- Use yoga blocks. Yoga blocks are a great way to raise the floor up to meet you where you’re at. Plus, with 3 levels, you should always feel comfortable using the blocks to help you achieve a pose.
- Use your shins. In this pose, you can place your hands on your shins. Place your palms flat against the front of your shins. This will provide the feedback necessary for your shoulders to stay in a neutral position.
Variation of Uttanasana and Ardha Uttanasana
Here is another way to loosen hamstring tightness in this pose:
- Follow the steps for Uttanasana, however, bring your hands to your shins and put a deep bend in your knees as you lower forward. Your elbows will bend.
- As you inhale and lift up for Ardha Uttanasana, straighten your knees and elbows. Imagine you have lifted up to form a 90 degree angle from your hips.
- As you exhale, put a deep bend in your knees and elbows as you fold forward.
- You can do as many of these as you would like.
- After your last one, inhale your arms up toward the ceiling and straighten your legs.
- Exhale and return to Tadasana.
If you are interested in yoga blocks, here is a link to the blocks I use.
Uttanasana and Ardha Uttanasana Video
For my visual learners, here is a video.
How do you feel when you practice Uttanasana or Ardha Uttanasana? Let us know in the comments below.
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