How to do a Yoga Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

Uttanasana appears to be a very simple yoga pose but if you pay close attention to your alignment and body mechanics, you'll get a lot more out of it.

Ann Pizer | Posted in:Practice
Yoga Standing Forward Fold Pose (Uttanasana)

Uttanasana is a pose that you do so frequently in yoga that there’s a real danger that you’ll stop paying close attention to how you do it. Once you’ve let a few of them slide, it’s pretty easy to space out and think about other things when moving through this pose, especially in Sun Salutations. This would be a mistake because some of the mental benefits of yoga originate in the very attention to small details of body awareness that you are tempted to gloss over. You’ll get a lot more physical benefits when you focus on alignment as well, whether it’s your first Standing Forward Fold or your one thousandth.

Uttanasana Basics

Sanskrit Meaning: Uttana (Intense Stretch)
Yoga Level: Beginner
Type of Pose: Standing
Benefits: Stretches your hamstrings and glutes.
Precautions: Avoid inverted positions if you have glaucoma.
Props: Blocks for your hands can be helpful.

Key Alignment Cues to Keep in Mind

1. Originate your forward bend from your pelvis by rotating it forward over your femurs. Try thinking of the pelvis as a bowl of water. When you tip it forward, water pours out the front side.

2. It doesn’t matter how close your hands come to the floor.

3. Keep your pelvis stacked over your heels.

Standing Forward Bend detail - Uttanasana

Step By Step Instructions

1. Come to stand at the front of your mat in Mountain Pose with your feet parallel and slightly separated.

2. Inhale to lift your arms overhead.

3. On your exhalation, take your arms out to either side and tilt your pelvis forward to rotate into a forward fold.

4. Keep a flat back for as long as possible. When your pelvis has reached its full forward rotation, it’s ok to round your spine.

5. Let your head hang heavy and bring your gaze to your legs.

6. When you get to your full forward bend, it’s time to decide what to do with your hands. Here are some options:

  • Let your fingertips or palms rest on the floor in line with your toes.
  • Let your hands hang if they don’t reach the floor
  • Bring your palms to rest lightly on your legs if they don’t reach the floor.

7. When you are preparing to jump back or step back, bend your knees as much as necessary to bring your palms flat on the floor with your fingertips in line with your toes.

Tips for Beginners

1. While Uttanasana is usually a quick pit stop in a Sun Salutation sequence, there is a lot of value in spending several additional breaths deepening this posture. When you have time, try staying for three or more breaths.

2. There’s a tendency to lean forward in this pose. Bring some attention to keeping your hips aligned over your ankles.

Related Poses


Flat Back Yoga Pose - Ardha Uttanasana


Flat Back (Ardha Uttanasana)

Another integral pose in the Sun Salutation sequence. For Ardha Uttanasana, bring your hands to the floor or to rest on your shins or thighs with your arms and spine straight. Lift your head and your gaze.

Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana

Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

The same shape as Uttanasana but in a seated position.

What’s Your Hurry?

Even the simplest yoga poses have value and are worthy of your attention. You’ve probably done a lot of standing forward bends in your life but doing just one with a focus on body mechanics and alignment can change your perspective completely. Go ahead, give it a try.

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