Uttanasana, or intense forward-bending pose, is a component of Sun Salutes and vinyasa, as well as, a dynamic part of the transition between standing and Chaturanga Dandasana. In Sanskrit, Ut means Intense, Tana means stretched and Asana means a yogic pose.
Uttasana is often dismissed as an uninteresting and basic pose; yet it offers a wealth of opportunities to develop muscle actions that support other standing poses like Warriors and Pyramid Pose. Practicing this foundation pose brings numerous benefits. Uttasana is also an inversion. Albeit a much more accessible inversion than head stand or handstand but with many of the usual benefits and more. Personally, I lovepracticing Uttansana because the weight of the head hanging heavy is enough to give my neck a gentle stretch. The stretch decompresses the spinal joints allowing a little stretch of the muscles and ligaments as well as a burst of nourishment.
Beginner’s Tip: If you cannot touch the ground, hold onto the backs of the legs wherever the hands fall (except for the knees) or cross the arms in front of the body holding onto the elbows. Let the head hang with gravity. If this is still too intense, take tension off the hamstrings and low back by bending the knees. Working with the breath, try “inhaling, bending”, “exhaling, straightening”. Deepen the Uttanasana pose to increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book or lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, and then, from the height of the groins, lengthen your heels back onto the floor.
Caution: Uttanasana requires patience and practice. It can take a while to reach the deepest variation of the pose. Those with back injuries can practice this pose with bent knees, use a block for support under the hands, or substitute Half Forward Bend instead.
Before you get out of bed in the morning to check your email, your social media, or put the kettle on for tea or coffee, try my new morning yoga routine. Each posture is designed to wake up the body and energize the mind. The best part? It only takes about 20 minutes. Rev-up your morning by trying these easy to do moves.
Finish this sequence in Easy Pose (cross-legged) with a few moments of stillness and meditation. Connecting to your breathing not only gives you the opportunity to be in the present moment, but also enables you to watch each gentle breath enter and exit the body. Each deep breath enriches you with oxygen, helping the flow of blood to muscles, tissues cells and bones, while aiding clarity of thought and a sense of calm and focus to start your day.
Begin and end this sequence in a seated position; avoid Savasana in the morning since the idea here is to “wake-up” the body.
Modify the above poses to suit your practice; use a yoga block or blanket if needed.
Dandasana may look like a simple pose, but it's important to make sure that you're doing it the correct way because it is the foundation of all seated poses. Dandasana comes from the Sanskrit words Danda – meaning “stick”, and Asana – meaning “posture”. This pose is best known as the base of all asanas in seating position, forward bends and twists.
It's easy for your everyday posture to slump forward since most of us suffer from poor posture, and staff pose helps correct us. When the spine is straight and the shoulders back, our breathing naturally becomes deeper and more regular. The nervous system relaxes and the mind and body become in alignment and harmony.
Caution: People with high blood pressure should not perform this pose. In case of any wrist or lower back injury avoid this pose.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold comes from the Sanskrit words Prasarita meaning separated. Pada meaning legs or feet. Uttana meaning intense stretching. The literal translation is “wide-stance forward bend’. This pose can also be translated as “spread out feet intense stretch”. When practiced with compassion, inversions such as this pose, can be very beneficial to your well-being. They reverse blood flow, which usually has to fight against gravity on its way back to the heart, thus improving circulation. Similarly, they help to move the lymphatic system, which runs parallel to the vascular network but doesn’t have a pump. Flushing that system means increased immunity and decreased illness.
The best beginner's tip for Wide-Legged Forward Bend is to place a soft padded yoga block or a soft folded blanket in front and place the crown of your head on the block of the blanket. Since beginners are usually not able to bend completely and place their crown on the floor, this helps maintain balance while still improving your stretch.
Do not hold this asana for more than 1 minute, especially if you are a beginner.
If you have low blood pressure or vertigo avoid this pose for longer times and perform for 2 to 3 breaths only. Come out of the pose gradually to avoid dizziness. Pregnant women should not perform this pose at all, especially during the 3rd trimester because of the excess belly weight..
While yoga has been around for centuries, it has surged in popularity over the last two decades. There are currently 37 million people in the United States who practice yoga; and I’m sure that the number of people who practice worldwide is even higher! People practice yoga for a variety of reasons such as gaining physical strength and flexibility, recovering from an injury, or to relieve stress and have more inner peace. Yoga is a practice that’s intended to meet you where you are physically and spiritually; to create balance, harmony, and a sense of connection in your life.
What you see on social media can be misleading and can cause many people to think that yoga is primarily about creating a “perfect” picturesque pose (like on a beach), or contorting the body into extreme ranges of motion. While there are some that do place an emphasis on the aesthetics, it’s more important to find yoga classes that will focus on developing body intelligence and guiding students to cultivate a safe and sustainable practice to enhance your overall well-being and bring a lasting benefit to your life.
Below are some common questions and misconceptions to help prepare you for the practice of yoga.
Are there classes for beginners?
There are definitely yoga classes that are open to all levels and abilities, including those that have never set foot on a yoga mat. It’s always best to do your own research to see what’s available in your area. Ideally you want a yoga teacher that is skilled at instructing those in the room, giving good cues as you move between poses. As a beginner, you shouldn’t have to buy yoga flashcards, memorize names of poses or understand Sanskrit before you go. A good yoga teacher and class should offer plenty of options to make the physical practice appropriate for you.
I’m not flexible!
This is the most common remark a yoga teacher hears. If you happen to be someone who believes this, consider that maybe your “tightness” has nothing to do with not being able to get your hands to the ground or bend your body like you’ve seen other people do. A functional yoga practice can guide on you how to work with your body type. Your mat becomes not only the place to practice asanas (poses) but also a tool where you can acquire knowledge and make discoveries about YOUR body. A good yoga teacher will guide you toward a deeper understanding of your body thus allowing you greater understanding and joy for the practice.
How do I know what class is right for me?
How should I prepare before class?
Hopefully this guide has helped to answer any questions or concerns you may have and sets you up for an optimal experience for your journey into yoga. See you on the mat! 😊
Many people today have tight hips and inner thighs due to prolong sitting at work and/or school, cars, and sitting at home. For many adults we have lost that easy flexibility in our hips and feel tight and restricted when attempting this pose. Regularly practicing hip-openers, such as Baddha Konasana, will counteract this stiffness, reduce pain, and bring more ease and grace to your overall movements.
Baddha Konasana comes from three Sanskrit words: Baddha meaning “bound” Kona meaning “angle” and Asana meaning “pose. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) has many names; Cobbler’s Pose, Butterfly and Diamond. Bound Angle, Butterfly and Diamond describe the shape of your legs while in the pose. Cobbler is derived from the way that Indian cobbler’s traditionally sat with shoes held between their feet as they worked. Whatever name you choose to call it, it is a great pose with many benefits.
Begin in a sitting position.
Press the soles of the feet together, and pull feet towards pelvis
Open the tops of the feet like a book. The bottoms and pinky toes should continue to touch, like the binding on a book.
Sit straight - don't round the back. Slowly begin to fold forward at the waist .
Added move: fold over feet with heart open, eyes looking up to the sky
Added move: fold over feet, arms extended to the floor and forward, gaze to the front of you
To come out of the pose, place your hands beside you on the floor. Press firmly through your arms and as you lift up, extend through the chest and bring yourself back to a seated position.
If you have issues with your knees, use blocks or cushions under your thighs to support your legs.
If feel that your spine is rounding as you fold forward or if you have any discomfort in your lower back, elevate your hips slightly by sitting on a small cushion or folded towel.
If your hips are tight, increase the angle at your knees by moving your feet further away from your body.
Caution: Never press on your knees in this pose! Doing so can cause injury to your groin and knees. Avoid jerking, pulling, pushing, or forcing any movement in this pose. Let your movements be slow and smooth.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be flexible, vegan, or young to practice yoga; it’s truly for everyone! Yogis come in all shapes and sizes and is accessible to people at all levels no matter the age. You can go to a class, just being you, and slowly but surely achieve your best self. Usually, yoga studios have many different level classes and the instructors can help you to modify poses if you are a beginner or want more of a challenge.
Here are just a few reasons to include yoga in your routine:
As a society, we are overloaded with stress, so it’s no surprise that people are attracted to yoga. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax at the end of a day, ground yourself, find center, and decrease anxiety to bring your body back into balance. Try a Yin yoga class or Restorative yoga class.
Do you want long, lean muscles? Many yoga poses increase muscle tone by activating your core, large and small muscles groups all at once. Over time, you’ll be able to flex those toned yoga arms 💪 with confidence and get yourself ready for arm balances you’ve seen on Instagram!
Yoga is a wonderful compliment to other forms of exercise. Where other activities like running or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) can make your muscles tight, yoga can support you to lengthen and create dimension in your body. Using your muscles in different ways will also help to prevent injury.
Flowing through a sun salutation is the perfect way to energize your body and mind while articulating the curves of your spine in order to keep it healthy. Sun salutations are typically done in the morning, but can be practiced any time you need a pick-me-up. So, skip the morning cup of coffee ☕ and practice these seven yoga poses for more energy!
Due to sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs, many people are dealing with back pain and poor posture as a result of lost articulation of the curves of the spine. Yoga, when practiced regularly, can help reverse the damage that sitting and slouching cause by bringing out these natural curves. Poses that lengthen the sides of the waist, broaden your chest or back, and help you learn pelvic orientation can be very beneficial for you. Good yoga posture teaches every part of your body to bear its own weight as an alternative of relying on other muscles to carry the load.
If you’re injured, yoga can aid you in rebuilding and learning your body on a deeper level to prevent future ailments. Many athletes work the same muscle groups over and over causing the muscles and joints to wear out over time. Yoga helps joints stay healthy and mobile, while working the entire body to make sure you’re strong enough to support the body parts that get the most wear and tear. Start slow and when possible work with a yoga teacher who can show you how to modify poses based on any injuries you may have as well as, learn poses to avoid.
Caution: Not all yoga poses are suitable for everyone. Always consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice. Modify poses with yoga props like blocks and blankets. Always practice yoga poses within your own range.
Baby Cradle pose or Leg Cradle pose, is a seated hip-opener that also stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles. It is a slight variation of pigeon pose and is sometimes also known as rock the baby pose. Although this pose is considered a beginner level yoga asana, its benefits can be profound. This asana is a wonderful yet gentle preparation for meditation and for more challenging asanas, such as full lotus and pigeon pose.
How to do Hindolasana
1. Begin in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
2. Inhale and lift your right leg up.
3. Place your right foot on your left forearm, and your right knee on your right forearm.
4. Clasp for fingers and bring your right shin close to your chest.
5. Twist your upper body to right side and then to your left side.
To come out of this pose, release your foot and sit in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
Repeat the sequence on your left side for the same length of time.
If this pose causes your lower back to round, or doesn’t feel good for your knee, try a seated figure four stretch instead, planting your feet on the floor and your palms or fingertips on the floor behind you. Lean back (keeping a long spine); cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keeping your right foot flexed; and walk your hands back until you find a position where you’re able to maintain a gentle curve in your lower back.
Caution: Do not attempt this pose if you have knee or hip injury.
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow pose) is a combination of two yoga poses that gently stretch and warm up your spine. The Sankrit name for cat cow pose is Marjaiasana. Marjay meaning cat and Bitil meaning cow (asana meaning pose). Cat/Cow pose consists of moving the spine from a rounded position to an arched position. Hence Cat/Cow pose is good for the spine. It’s a basic motions but it is enormously beneficial in preventing back pain and maintaining a healthy spine. Bringing movement and flexibility to your spine helps your body to become more coordinated. Try a few slow rounds of Cat-Cow when you wake in the morning, before bed, or after sitting for a long period. You may notice yourself walking taller throughout the day! 😊
How To Perform Cat-Cow Pose:
1. Start on the ground with a neutral spine in table-top position with your knees and hands on the floor. Your knees should be hip distance apart in line with your hips and your arms should be straightened and in line with your shoulders. Keep your head in line with your body and either close your eyes or gaze towards the ground.
2. Take an inhale while in this neutral spine position and then slowly exhale your breath while rounding your spine towards the sky, keeping your hands and knees where they are.
3. As you round your spine you will gently release your head towards the ground while making sure not to tense your neck. Engage your lower core muscles and really try to bring your tailbone towards the center of your body while rounding your back as high as you can.
4. Once you have released your entire breath in Cat Pose start to inhale deeply while dropping your belly towards the ground.
5. Begin to arch your back and lift your chest towards the sky keeping your neck in line with your spine. Release your lower belly to the ground while actively lifting your tailbone to the sky.
6. After a full inhale while in Cow Pose, start to slowly exhale your breath and move through to Cat Pose once again. Continue through the Cat-Cow sequence as many times as you need, maintaining a slow and steady breath the entire time.
Sun Salutation is the most famous yoga sequence and can be a way for us to connect with our light within and our self-illumination. According to yogapedia.com, "Sun Salutation is one of the most important yoga practices. It is the set of 12 yoga poses which can be performed while chanting 12 different mantras. Mantras add a reflective spiritual element to the practice. The practice of Sun Salutation awakens the body intelligence to create energy directly from the sun. In the Vedic tradition, the sun is symbolic of consciousness and, therefore, has been worshiped daily in the Indian culture. Sun Salutation may also be referred to as Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit."
The original Surya Namaskar wasn't a sequence of postures, but rather a sequence of sacred words - mantras to honor the sun. The Vedic tradition, which predates classical yoga by several thousands of years, honored the sun as a symbol of the Divine. The full practice includes 132 passages and takes more than an hour to recite. The sun salutations were traditionally chanted at sunrise, repeating the sequence in each of the four cardinal directions.
If you want to “flow” through your Sun Salutation with more grace and peace, here are some simple and practical tips that can help make your Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) experience complete and blissful.
Meditate before you start Surya Namaskar
So why meditate before practicing the Sun Salutes? Meditation helps remove restlessness in the mind and prepares your body for Surya Namaskar yoga postures.
Practice Sun Salutation early in the mornings
Although Sun Salutations can be practiced at any time of the day, the early-morning hours are considered especially auspicious for yoga and meditation practice. For most of us, early morning is the time of the day we can be alone, without any interruptions or distractions.
Try moving slowly and deliberately
When you feel how the sequence becomes a sort of moving meditation as you practice, your center of awareness in your body (such as your third eye or your heart) challenges you to keep focusing there for the duration of your practice. Even when you pick up pace, don’t do the poses with jerky movements or with force. Allow the postures to flow gently and gracefully one into the other.
Have the Attitude of Gratitude
When you step on your mat, give thanks for the day, your body, your yoga practice and anything else that has meaning to you personally. This makes a big difference! You will be able to enjoy your stretches much more and to keep the positive energy flowing through the duration of your yoga practice.
Do your Surya Namaskars with awareness
This is a very essential element in the entire practice. Surya Namaskar could be very energizing when it’s practiced at a slower pace and with awareness on the breath. If done with proper awareness, one can feel the flow of energy starting from the Navel chakra through the entire body.
Use the breath to calm the mind (and steady the body)
Whatever happens in the mind influences the breath. Stress and tension cause the breath to increase, peace and calm slow the breath. The opposite is also true, slowing the breath will bring peace and calm to the mind. As the mind calms, the body will follow, tight muscles will soften and supporting muscles will become more steady.
Practice Sun Salutation as a warm-up or stand-alone practice
If you are new to yoga or don’t have time for an hour practice. For busy yogis, practice Sun Salutation for 10-15 minutes then relax in Savasana. If you have more time, practice Sun Salutation as a daily routine before starting your regular yoga practice. It is worth noting, if you are practicing Surya Namaskars as part of your warm-up, you can do them at a somewhat faster speed. When you practice them as part of the yoga posture practice, you can practice them slow to medium speed. After a few rounds, your body will feel light and flexible and the stretches in the active yoga postures become deeper. If you have backache, avoid practicing Sun Salutations at a fast pace.
Relax After Sun Salutation
As you finish your last round of Surya Namaskar, lie down and relax your entire body. For best results, it is advisable to lie down in Yoga Nidra or Savasana, giving your body and mind enough time to assimilate the effects of your practice.
Surya Namaskar is the perfect practice to awaken the body, focus the mind, and connect to a sense of gratitude for each new day. Remember that you have the sun inside your heart.
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