Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana

Standing forward bend
Ben Goldstein

Type of pose: Forward bend

Benefits: Stretches and lengthens the hamstrings

As part of the sun salutation sequence, uttanasana is done a lot in vinyasa style practice. It pays to spend a little extra time in your first few forward bends since your body releases more deeply over a longer hold time.

Moving back and forth between a flat back (ardha uttanasana) and a forward fold is also a nice way to deepen this pose. Use your inhales to come to a long straight spine with your hands on your shins. On your exhales, keep your spine long as you forward fold over your legs. Go back a forth a few times.


  1. From urdhva hastasana with the arms reaching overhead, sweep your arms down on either side of your body to come into a forward fold. This is often called a swan dive.
  2. Make sure your fold originates from your pelvis, deepening the hip creases, and not from the back. A fold that comes from the back will result in a curved spine that hangs over your legs. Instead, imagine your pelvis as a bowl of water. Rotate the pelvis forward to tip the water out of the front side. Now you can fold deeply in a safer way.
  3. Bring your fingertips in line with the toes. Press your palms flat to the mat if you can. You can use blocks under your hands here if they don't reach the floor. 
  4. Microbend the knees so that they are not locked.
  5. Engage the quadriceps muscles of your thighs and draw then up. The more you use your quads, the more the hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the thighs) will open.
  6. Bring your weight a little bit forward into the balls of your feet so that your hips stay over your ankles.
  7. Let your head hang.

    Beginners Tips

    • The feet can be touching or hips' distance apart, whichever is more comfortable.
    • It's ok to bend the knees slightly, though this does change the effects of the pose. I recommend using blocks under your hands instead if you are bending your knees a lot so that the pose is still a hamstring stretch.

    Advanced Tips

    • If you are very open in the hamstrings, try holding your big toes in a yogi toe lock while bending your elbows out to either side. You can also take this one step further by bringing your hands underneath your feet with the palms turned up. Your toes will come to your palm creases.
    • Interlace your fingers behind your back while forward bending. Draw your hands up to the ceiling and them overhead. This introduces a shoulder opener and the element of balance. 
    Was this page helpful?