Half-Standing Forward Fold is a wonderfully gentle stretch for the entire body. Here are some tips and modifications for doing it right…
A few weeks ago, we discussed Standing Forward Bend Pose, but a related pose that is often used in conjunction with this pose is the Half-Standing Forward Fold (or Bend) pose (Ardha Uttanasana). This pose is often seen in the Sun Salutations sequence, as well as other sequences involving Standing Forward Bend. This is also a wonderful stretch to perform throughout your day if you spend a lot of time sitting!
Half-Standing Forward Fold helps to stretch the torso, spine, and legs, and is particularly helpful for tight hamstrings. While it’s Sanskrit name literally means “half intense stretch pose,” the pose is generally known as a gentler and less intense version of the full Standing Forward Bend, and is often used to prepare the body for deeper yoga stretches. The pose also helps to strengthen the back and improve posture, and stimulates the abdominal organs to help enhance digestion.
If you have back injuries, keep your knees slightly bent, and use a wall or the back of a chair for support. For those with neck injuries, keep your head down and look at the floor or your feet during the pose, rather than lifting it up to gaze forward. Always listen to your body, and work within your own limits and abilities.
Here are instructions from YogaOutlet.com for performing Half-Standing Forward Fold Pose:
- Begin in Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana), with your hands or fingertips on the floor at the side of each foot. You can also rest your hands on your shins, or press your palms into yoga blocks at the sides of your feet.
- Inhale as you raise the front of your torso away from your thighs, straightening your elbows.
- Lift your collarbones and sternum away from the floor. Reach the crown of your head forward and your tailbone behind you. You can bend your knees slightly to help straighten the torso and spine.
- Press your fingertips or palms into the floor, to help lift and straighten your torso.
- Lift your head slightly and gaze forward without compressing the neck. Your torso should be straight. If your back rounds, bend your knees or place your hands higher until your spine is straight.
- Engage your quadriceps (the front thigh muscles) and draw them up toward the ceiling. Do not lock your knees; keep them slightly bent.
- Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles.
- Slightly lift and lengthen your torso with each inhalation.
- Hold the pose for up to one minute. Exhale as you release into Uttanasana. Repeat 5-10 times. Those practicing Sun Salutations should move directly from Ardha Uttanasana into Low Lunge, Plank, or Chaturanga.
To Modify the Pose:
If you have tight hamstrings, keep your knees slightly bent, and place your hands on your shins or yoga blocks instead of the floor.
Make sure to keep your back flat. If this is difficult for you, hold onto the back of a chair, and walk your feet backwards, bending at the hips, until your torso is parallel to the ground and your body forms an “L” shape with a flat back.
If you have poor balance or sciatica, move your feet further apart and turn your toes in slightly.
If you are pregnant, keep your feet as wide apart as you need to to feel stable, and be careful not to fold too deeply and compress the belly.
If you would like a deeper stretch, place a folded mat or towel under the balls of your feet, and to improve the strengthening benefits of the pose, extend your arms straight ahead beside your ears.