By B.K.S. Iyengar
‘Ut‘ indicates intensity, ‘tan‘ means to stretch, extend. This asana brings about an intense extension not only in the legs but also the spine.
The classical technique
1. Stand with the feet, ankles and toes together as in Tadasana.
2. While exhaling the breath, slowly bend forward and place the fingers on the floor. Then place the palms on the floor by the side of the feet, behind the heels. Do not bend the legs at the knees.
3. While taking the arms down, ensure that you are not just moving the arms down but are constantly extending from the base of the spine. Move the hips a little forward towards the head so as to bring the legs perpendicular to the floor.
4. Do not hold your breath. Stay as long as you can with normal inhalations and exhalations of breath.
5. Then, exhale and move the trunk closer to the legs and rest the head on the knees.
6. Do not slacken the grip at the knees, but pull the kneecaps well up.
7. Inhale and raise the head from the knees, but without lifting the palms from the floor.
8. After two breaths take a deep inhalation, lift the hands from the floor and come back to tadasana
Technique with props
Half Uttanasana with arms supported:
People with lower back problem may be unable to perform the classical Uttanasana. In the absence of guidance from a well-trained teacher, it is likely that these people experience pain in the lower back as soon as they bend forward. Such people need to learn how to extend their lower back and then strengthen it. This is how they should be performing this asana.
• Entwine the arms over the head, such that the left upper arm is gripped well by the right palm and the right upper arm is gripped by the left palm. Extend the arms well, so that you feel the extension not only in the armpits but from the sides of the waist. Then, with an exhalation, extending the spine, slowly bend forward so that the chest becomes parallel to the floor. This is Ardha Uttanasana.
• This asana can be performed in front of a stool or table or window sill, such that the forearms can be rested on them. The distance between the stool and your feet has to be adjusted in such a manner that when you bend forward and rest your arms on the stool/window sill, the chest remains parallel to the floor. One can stay in this posture as long as possible, which can even be extended to three or four minutes over a period of time. This not only prevents backache in those with a back problem, but also helps to alleviate it.
Uttanasana against the wall:
• Stand against the wall with the hips resting against the wall, the feet about one to one-and-a-half feet away from the wall. Thus, the legs would be at an angle to the wall. Entwine the arms over the head such that the left palm grips the right upper arm and the right palm grips the left upper arm. With an exhalation, extending the chest forward and extending from the base of the spine, slowly move the chest and the abdomen towards the legs. Stay in this position for as long as possible. Ensure that the base of the hips, the buttock-bones are resting against the wall and not the center portion of the hips. Try to increase the space between the hips. To achieve this, one can physically lift the hips upwards and sideways with one’s palms such that the head of the thigh and the base of the hips are rested against the wall.
Regularly practicing in this manner helps one to understand the correct movement of the legs and chest in Uttanasana. It is advisable to perform Uttanasana in this manner when one is tired or exhausted, as this helps rejuvenate and freshen the brain and normalize the breath.
Uttanasana with the head rested on a stool or chair:
People suffering from hypertension, those getting a heaviness or prone to headaches, or those practicing Uttanasana on a hot summer day are advised to do this posture by resting the head (either the crown or the forehead) on a stool or chair, while the hands can hold the bottom legs of the chair or can be kept loosely over the seat of the chair or stool. Performing Uttanasana in this manner cools the head, relaxes the eyes and also helps one to stay for prolonged duration in the posture. Thus, rejuvenating the brain and refreshing the mind.
• This asana cures stomach pains, tones the liver, spleen and kidneys.
• It also relieves stomach pain during menstrual periods.
• It is a boon to people who get excited easily or quickly, as it soothes the brain cells.
• The spinal nerves are rejuvenated and reinvigorated.
• After this asana, one feels calm and cool, the eyes start to glow and the mind feels at peace.
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