Ardha Uttānāsana is commonly referred to as “Half Standing Forward Fold” or “Half Forward Bend.” However, the literal translation of its Sanskrit name is, “half intense stretch pose.” This comes from four Sanskrit words:
“Ardha” — meaning “half”
“Ut” — meaning “intense”
“Tan” — meaning “to stretch”
“Asana” — meaning “pose”
Even though this is an intense half standing stretch, be sure to keep the pose relaxing and comfortable. Your body will lengthen and strengthen with time and practice, so don’t overdo it by pushing too hard. You’ll get a deeper stretch if you relax more in the pose.
Ardha Uttānāsana Instructions
1. From Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), press your palms or fingertips into the floor (or blocks on the floor) beside your feet. With an inhale, straighten your elbows and arch your torso away from your thighs.
2. Allow yourself to look forward, but be careful not to compress the back of your neck. Hold the arched-back position for a few breaths. Then, with an exhale, release your torso into full Uttanasana.
Ardha Uttānāsana Benefits
* Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
* Stimulates the liver and kidneys
* Stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips
* Strengthens the thighs and knees
* Improves digestion
* Reduces fatigue and anxiety
* Relieves headache and insomnia
Those with back injuries should practice this pose with their hands resting on the back of a chair or against a wall. Keep the knees slightly bent. If you have a neck injury, keep your head down — do not lift it to gaze forward.
Modifications & Variations
* If your hamstrings or low back are tight, bend your knees.
* If you can’t easily touch the mat with your knees straight, place your hands on your shins. You can also press each hand on yoga blocks set to the outside of each foot.
* To learn the movement of keeping your back flat, place your hands on the back of a chair. You can also press your palms against a wall, just above waist level. Walk your feet back, bending at the hips, until your torso is parallel to the ground. Your body should form the shape of an upside down “L”.
* If you’re practicing with a wall and can’t keep your back flat, walk your hands higher up the wall until your spine is straight.
* If you’re having trouble balancing, stand with your feet hip-distance apart or wider.
* If you have sciatica, stand with your feet hip-distance apart or wider, with your toes turned inward and heels turned outward.
* To deepen the stretch at the back of the legs, elevate the balls of your feet by placing them on your folded mat, towel or firm blanket.
* For more of a challenge strengthening the back, extend your arms directly forward, with your elbows alongside your ears.
Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.