YogaAndBackCare - Uttanasana


Uttanasana is one of the best postures we can do if we have lazy hamstrings.

According to BKS Iynegar in Light of Yoga, Ut when it goes in front of another word to make a longer word carries the meaning of intensity. Tan means to stretch, to extend, to lengthen. So it is not going to surprise you that in this posture the spine is given an intense stretch.

The posture is said to help stomach pains and to tone the liver, the spleen and the kidneys. It should ease menstrual period pain in the tummy. It slows the heart beat down and rejuvenates the spinal nerves. It is said it also eases depression if the posture is held for more than two minutes.

It should leave you feeling calm, cool and at peace with the world.

To do the posture you stand in Tadasana and then you can either on an exhalation bend from the hips forward or you can stretch upwards alternating each arm upwards until you feel that you have freed your spine and then on an exhalation bend from the hips forward.

I have found that stretching upwards first enables me to bend further. Hatha Yoga is all about being in touch with your own body, so try both methods and feel which works best for you.

You want to concentrate on having your legs perpendicular. If you have tight hamstrings, this will not be easy. Always remember in yoga we do every posture to the best of our ability and that in yielding ourselves into the posture gradually week by week, the posture will improve. So do not worry if you can not get your hands to the floor like the lady in the photograph above. Incidentally the lady is prepared to confess that she is in her seventies!

Back view of Uttanasana

For teachers, Uttanasana when looked at with an observant eye will give you a lot of information about your student. If you stand behind, you can check whether the leg lengths are the same and whether the pelvic area looks level. Moving slightly closer and looking down the spine of the student will show up whether the muscle tone is similar either side of the spine and also whether there is any curvature in the spine. This student may have a slightly longer right leg since there appears to be a slight difference in the hip levels. Having a look at the student's work in Dandasana the Staff or Rod pose will enable you to determine whether there is indeed a slight difference in the leg length.

Not everybody can get their head down as low as the lady demonstrating the posture at the top. Since it is good to relax into this posture blocks or chairs can be used to help the pupil enjoy relaxing into the pose.

Student is using blocks to relax into Uttanasana

The lady above is able to relax into the posture with the help of the blocks. Watch if you are teaching that the student also has the feet parallel to each other. Here they have drifted apart a bit.