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Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

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What is Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)?

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Uttanasana, or intense stretch pose, is a beginner-friendly standing forward bend in yoga. This pose helps relax the upper body and lengthens your lower body muscles. 

This is a tension-releasing pose that works around the legs, tailbone, and spine, helping the body quickly release excess tension from these areas. 

Uttanasana pose is used in many yoga flows – like Surya Namaskar. It is used as a stress-releasing yoga asana, especially when your heart is racing due to exertion and rapid transitioning movements. 

The name Uttanasana is a combination of two Sanskrit words – Uttan, which means "intense stretch," and Asana, which means "posture" or "seat".

This pose first appeared in the 19th-century Hindu hatha yoga text, Sritattvanidhi, but it was not the exact same posture as Uttanasana in terms of alignment. 

Uttanasana is more closely aligned with a modern yoga pose known as "Hand to Feet Pose" or Padahastasana

This modern-day pose is best explained by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (Famous Indian Yoga Guru) in his 1934 book Yoga Makaranda. 

Sanskrit Name: उत्तानासन                                        Pronunciation: OOT-un-AA-SUN-aa

Pose Type: Standing Forward Bend                       Also known as: Intense Stretch Pose

Strengthens: Low Back, Knee, Ankles, Hamstrings, and Quads

Stretches: Spine, Shoulders, Hamstrings, Calves, and Hips

Health Benefits of Uttanasana 

  • Tones abdominal muscles. 

  • Stretches and relaxes the spine. 

  • Revitalizes nervous system function. 

  • Improves blood circulation toward the brain. 

  • Balances negative emotions and mood swings. 

  • Stimulates kidney, liver, and digestive function. 

  • Induces physical relaxation and relieves insomnia.

  • Lowers the heart rate and enhances the uptake of oxygen in the blood. 

  • Strengthens and lengthens your hamstrings, knees, calves, hips, and low back. 

  • Activates the Root, Sacral, and Crown Chakra, which improves hormonal balance. 

When to Avoid Performing Uttanasana

  • Avoid if you are pregnant.

  • Avoid if you have inflammatory knee arthritis. 

  • Avoid if you’ve recently had any kind of surgery. 

  • Avoid during severe digestive ailments or intestinal blockages. 

  • Avoid if you have a severe injury or you’re experiencing body aches.

  • Avoid if you have a migraine, high blood pressure, or spinal disorders. 

How to do Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

To perform the standing forward bend pose, we divided the practice into four phases: pose preparation, asana steps, relax poses, and alignment cues. Follow these steps in chronological order for the best results: 

Part 1 - Preparatory Poses for Uttanasana

As its name implies, the intense stretch pose is a moderate to extreme level stretch for new yogis. The activation of muscles in your lower body and back is crucial to minimize unwanted injuries. 

Below are three yoga poses for getting your lower back, legs, and hamstrings warmed up: 

1. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) -

Start by sitting down on your yoga mat and flex your legs straight in the Staff Pose. Inhale deeply and raise both of your arms slowly over your head. Now, exhale as you start bending forward and gently rest your head on your knees.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Keep your arms stretched out in front and hold this pose for a minute. This pose will open your hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and lower back. 

2. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) - 

Stand on your yoga mat and make sure your spine is upright, your core is engaged, and your shoulders are not slouching. Keep your arms at your sides, close your eyes, and focus on your breath passing through your nostrils.  

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

If you want to stretch your upper body even further, raise your arms over your head and hold this posture for at least two minutes. 

3. Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend) - This is a semi-standing forward bend for newbies. It’s best if your low back feels tight and bending forward feels challenging for you.

Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)

Continue from Mountain Pose and bend your upper body from your waist, holding this pose for 30 to 60 seconds. This pose will activate many of the essential muscles for your main practice. 

Part 2: Step-by-Step Instructions to Perform Uttanasana

The following are steps for practicing the Intense Stretch Pose: 

Step 1- Stand in the middle of your mat, with your weight balanced equally between your feet, and keep your arms relaxed at the sides of your glutes. 

Step 2- Press into the yoga mat with the outer edges of your feet. Take a few deep breaths here and ensure you are standing straight. 

Step 3- Inhale, keeping your knees slightly bent, and place your hands on your hips (especially for beginners). 

Step 4- Now, gently exhale as you bend at your waist, bringing your chest parallel with the mat and pulling your shoulder blades together.

Step 5- Let your chest relax on your thighs and extend your arms down onto the mat, placing your fingertips or hands on the mat. 

Step 6- Stay bent without hyperextending your hamstrings, and hold this pose until your whole body feels relaxed. 

Step 7- Now, take another deep breath and then release the pose by rising back up in the Mountain Pose. 

Breath Awareness: 

  • Inhale: When you stand in the Mountain Pose and raise your hand overhead. 

  • Exhale: When you bend your upper body toward the ground.

Performance Duration for Beginners: Hold Uttanasana for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Performance Duration for Advanced: Hold Uttanasana for 1 to 5 minutes.  

Part 3: Things to Keep in Mind

In order to avoid unwanted injuries while you practice Uttanasana, it’s important to keep in mind the following alignment tips. 

  • Avoid locking your joints: Your knee joints are one of the essential components of this pose, taking the weight of your whole body while you are standing in the intense stretch pose.

It’s essential to avoid overstressing your knee joints unnecessarily by locking them. So, make sure you maintain a very slight bend in your knees while bending your upper body toward the ground. 

  • Don't overstretch your hamstrings: While you hinge from your torso and come onto your thighs, you will feel a moderate to intense flexion in your hamstrings and lower back. 

If this flexion is too much for you to handle, simply minimize the level of bending forward. Hinge only half of your body at first and gently work your way closer to your thighs. With time, you'll feel less tension in your low back and hamstrings. 

Part 4: Relaxing Poses After Uttanasana

The Standing Forward Bend is itself used as a relaxing pose in between yoga flows and after your asana practice. Therefore, not much is needed for the body to relax after performing this pose. 

But if you’d still like to add some counter-yoga poses to keep your body in neutral shape after Uttanasana, try practicing this asana: 

1. Anuvittasana (Standing Backbend): This is a standing backbend yoga pose in which the head, arms, neck, and upper body are dropped back. 

Anuvittasana (Standing Backbend)

During standing backbend practice, the lower back is hinged in the counter direction of Uttanasana. It will help you align your lower back and sacrum back in a neutral shape. 

Uttanasana Modifications and Props

If you feel you are not flexible enough to perform the Standing Forward stretch, then you can try the following posture modifications with the use of props: 

  • Use a wall: Stand in front of a wall and simply bend your upper body forward so that your hands are resting on the wall. 

Use a wall

Maintain the hinge in your back and legs at a 90-degree angle. Hold this pose for 1 to 5 minutes for enhanced muscle flexibility in your hamstrings, core, and back. 

  • Use a yoga block: If bending forward feels extremely painful or tense around your low back area, add a yoga block in front of your feet. Now, bend forward and rest your hands on the block to limit your lower back’s range of motion.

Use a yoga block


This minimized range of motion with added support will help your lower back gain endurance for prolonged holds without getting injured.

  • Use a yoga strap: If you want to touch your fingers to the ground or hold your ankles with your hands in Uttanasana, then you need to gain more flexibility in your hamstrings as well as your spine. 

Use a yoga strap

Consider adding a yoga strap below your feet and perform posture drills to pull your upper body gently up and down to the ground. This will strengthen and lengthen your muscles for improved flexibility. 

Uttanasana Variations to Consider

If you want to simplify or challenge your Standing Forward Fold practice, then take a look at the below posture variations: 

1. Half Intense Stretch Pose with Hands on Shins - Hinge in Half Standing Forward Bend and keep your hands on your shins. Remember not to lock your knee joints while placing your hands on your legs. 

Half Intense Stretch Pose with Hands on Shins

Also, maintain your spine, neck, and tailbone in one straight line with your gaze toward the ground. 

2. Baddha Hasta Uttanasana (Dangling Pose) - Get into Uttanasana, fold your elbows together, and gently start to dangle from right to left. This posture variation is best suited for practitioners with a tight spine, hamstrings, and tailbone area. 

Baddha Hasta Uttanasana (Dangling Pose)

You can use this dynamic bending variation to enhance blood circulation in the whole body, which further activates mobility in the essential muscle groups. 

3. Parivrtta Uttanasana (Revolved Intense Stretch Pose) - This is a deeper forward bend pose in yoga. Start with Uttanasana and gently twist your spine, keeping one hand on the floor and the other arm extended out in the opposite direction upwards. 

 Parivrtta Uttanasana (Revolved Intense Stretch Pose)

In this pose, your neck should be relaxed, and your gaze should be directed toward your arm that is lifted up. Hold this pose for a few seconds, and you will feel a deep opening of your chest and back muscles. 

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Level-Up Poses After Uttanasana for Advanced Yogis

Once your body is flexible enough to perform Uttanasana, now you can try the following list of advanced forward-bending yoga poses to enhance your flexibility even further. 

Level-Up Pose 1 - Padahastasana (Intense Stretch Pose Holding Big Toes or Ankles)

Level-Up Pose 2 - Uttanasana Variation (Intense Stretch Pose with Clasped Arms)

Level-Up Pose 3 - Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana (Revolved Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Level-Up Pose 4 - Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split Pose)

Padahastasana (Intense Stretch Pose Holding Big Toes or Ankles)

Padahastasana (Intense Stretch Pose Holding Big Toes or Ankles)

Uttanasana Variation (Intense Stretch Pose with Clasped Arms)

Uttanasana Variation (Intense Stretch Pose with Clasped Arms)

Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana (Revolved Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parivrtta Adho Mukha Svanasana (Revolved Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split Pose)


Similar Forward Bending Poses like Uttanasana

Here is a list of a few similar yoga poses like the Standing Forward Bend Pose: 

  1. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

  2. Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)

  3. Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)

  4. Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

  5. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Stance Forward Bend)

  6. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Frequently Asked Questions about Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

What are the benefits of Ardha Uttanasana?

Can beginners perform Uttanasana Pose?

What is Hasta Uttanasana?

Who should not perform Uttanasana yoga?

What are the benefits of Parsva Uttanasana?

Is Uttanasana and Padahastasana the same?

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