Welcome to the first article in our new series, Pose of the Day! In this series, we will explore common yoga postures and their effects on the doshas, bodily systems, and energy pathways.
If you’ve been to a yoga class, it’s likely that at some point you found yourself upside down and staring at your shins.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) is a popular posture because it’s part of the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) sequence, as well as an easy transition pose when moving from the floor to standing or vice versa.
Through the Ayurvedic Lens
This is a wonderful posture for stretching the hamstrings and backs of the legs, as well as offering length and release to the lower back area. Ayurvedically, this is a great posture to decrease vata (air and ether) as it compresses and massages the home site of vata which is in the colon, making it a good practice for the digestive system, and for reducing gas and bloating.
Standing Forward Fold is a posture of release and letting go. It allows you to see the world from a new perspective and literally surrender your head to your heart as you bow down to the earth.
When held for long periods of time, Standing Forward Fold may feel heating and possibly aggravating to pitta (fire and water).
I like to encourage my students to exhale and relax the head towards the earth and inhale and imagine drawing the prana up from the earth through the soles of the feet, legs, and into the lower back. This intention creates an energetic shift and brings a soothing quality to the nervous system to decrease excess vata.
How to Practice
Stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip distance apart and parallel. Place your hands on your hips and begin to bend forward from the hip joints (not the waist). Keep the torso elongated as you bend forward, bending the knees as much as you need to be comfortable. Relax your neck and head.
Place your palms or fingertips on the floor beside your toes, or on your shins. Focus on lengthening through the front of the torso instead of to trying to get your nose to touch your legs. Ensure that your knees are in alignment with your second toe and not rolling in or out and send your sitting bones towards the ceiling to gain more length through your spine.
Pause and take 5 deep breaths.
To come out of the posture, inhale and bend your knees a bit more and slowly begin to roll up through the spine in a sequential manner until you return to the original standing position.
Notice how you’re feeling.
Variations or Modifications
If you’re not able to touch the floor or your shins, you may grab opposite elbows and rest them on your thighs. This is also a good variation if you have high blood pressure, low blood pressure, or vertigo.
If you have a back injury or osteoporosis, approach this posture with great awareness and don’t practice if it is painful or aggravating to your condition. Avoid this posture if you have sciatic pain.