Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend, Intense Back Stretch

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

Ut is a Sanskrit word which

means “intense” in English.

Same way Tan stands for the

stretch in English.

Uttanasana is an intense stretch pose,

which stretches the entire backside

of the body, from heels to calves to hamstrings,

to the entire spine,

more intensely than an ordinary stretch.

Also known as Pada Hast asana -hand to feet pose

— it can be quite a challenge for the beginners to get into as the muscle group involved -calves, hamstrings, hips – being the stiffest for them is stretched the most intensely here.

Standing forward bend or Uttanasana as it is known,  forms a transitory posture between almost all of Vinyasa Yoga or Flow Yoga sequences as it comes across as a natural intermediary transition between almost all standing to lie down postures and vice versa.  This posture places the head below the heart relieving the later of some stress it experiences during pumping the blood against gravity all the other times.

In Uttanasana, the head being the center of Ego bows down helping reduce it to a certain level, by generating an attitude of let go, facilitating the cultivation of the feeling or Bhava of Vairagya which holds stupendous significance in Yoga in general. Do know the meaning and ground rules for doing yoga asanas the right way before attempting Uttanasana 

Preparatory Postures for Uttanasana

Uttanasana Intense forward bend
  • Adhomukhsvan Asana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Hastpadangushtasana

How to do Uttanasana

​In order to begin getting into Uttanasana stand erect, feet together, arms hanging at the sides of the body, keep the spine straight, relax the entire body

  1. While inhaling raise both the arms, keeping them at shoulder width apart throughout, in a smooth flow, the  fingertips as if marking a circle, passing the shoulder level to upper arms crossing the ear, arch back further  inhaling  deeply, do not tilt the torso
  2. backwards from the lower back while arching back, instead create a concave bend in the upper back by pushing the shoulders backward  keeping the elbows straight, lift the sternum up creating distance between the sternum and the lower pelvis, feel the stretch from the hips to the fingertips, at his point the body is ready for taking a proper forward bend like Uttanasana
  3. Exhale and start bending forward from the hips, not the waist, maintain the upward stretch as achieved earlier in the back and front of the torso, without shifting the hips backwards till the upper body along with the stretched out arms becomes parallel to the floor, Take your Mind to the lower back here and open it further by stretching, pulling the shoulders, upper back and the head forward
  4. Continue to exhale and bend further down maintaining the forward stretch of the upper body along with the lower back, keep the knees straight,  touch the fingertips where ever possible: on the floor ahead of the feet, on the feet or the ankles,  in a standing forward bend or Uttanasana let the flexibility of the spine and torso dictate the position where the palms can touch the extended legs instead of struggling to reach a particular position
  5. Keep the shoulders relaxed and hold the ankles at whatever point possible from the sides, Inhale and lengthen the torso by pushing the head towards the floor and not towards the knees or legs, once the torso is extended enough exhale and pull the head towards the knees or the shins depending on the length of the torso
  6. Breathe normal and rhythmically in the final position, Inhale while raising the upper body to the starting position, maintaining the stretch throughout  in both the back and front of the torso, once the arms reach directly above the shoulders, ears to the upper arms, exhaling lower the arms by giving them a backward rotation with palms turned outward

Breathing Pattern & Duration – Standing Forward Bend

While doing Uttanasana inhale while raising the arms up, exhale while bending forward, inhale while raising the torso and exhale while lowering the arms to the starting position.

Begin with practicing standing forward bend with five rounds of small durations,

gradually moving to a lesser number of rounds with extended durations.   Slowly build up to be able to stay in the final position from a minimum of 3 minutes to 5 minutes.

Follow up Poses – Standing Forward Bend


  • Any  backbend – Setu Asana
  • Any forward bend – Paschimottanasana
  • Any standing postures

Alignment Essentials and Modifications – Uttanasana

  • Bend maximum at the hip joint, tilting the pelvis forward to the maximum possible
  • Stress on lengthening  the torso, spine downwards as much as possible, avoid the tendency to pull the head towards the knees, instead concentrate on avoiding any curve in the spine, the proper alignment for Uttanasana would be when the waist, the abdomen, the chest and then the forehead touch the respective points on the front of the legs with the spine remaining straight throughout
  • Consciously avoid hyperextending the knees, bend he knees a bit in order to avoid this
  • Practice Uttanasana in between a sequence of different standing postures like Utthita Trikonasana, Utthita Parshvakonasana, and Virabhadrasana series, this will hasten the progress of forward bends than earlier
  • While bending downward press the heels into the floor, lift the back of the hips toward the ceiling, and rotate the thighs inward
  • Never stretch the knees by locking them up, instead, imagine the legs stretching outward from both the ends and not in between at the knees
  • Never force or struggle yourself to get into a forward bend,  instead try to stay longer at the maximum possible bend one can reach

Common Faults – Uttanasana

  • Knees are not straight
  • Prominent curvature in the upper back
  • Feet are not together or are turned outward

Contraindications – When not to do Uttanasana / Haspadasana 

Avoid doing Uttanasana in case any of the below-mentioned conditions are present

  • Any injury to the spine
  • Sciatica
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension
  • An abdominal hernia
  • Glaucoma or detached retina
  • Hamstring tear

Advantages- Benefits of doing Uttanasana

In order to benefit the maximum from Uttanasana, one must properly understand the concept of Yoga asana and the associated guidelines before doing it. Some of the advantages one can savor by regularly practicing Uttanasana are mentioned below:

  • Tones the digestive tract and abdominal organs
  • Strengthen knees and the thighs, it enhances the benefits of the yoga for healthy knees
  • Alleviates flatulence, indigestion, and constipation, if made a part of the yoga for treating flatulence it will not disappoint the practitioner
  • Spinal nerves are  exercised
  • The pituitary gland and the thyroid gland are flushed with blood in the head low position in Uttanasana, it is always kept as part of the yoga for a healthy pituitary gland
  • Intense forward bending improves metabolism, increases the concentration power  of the mind
  • Standing forward bend helps alleviate nasal issues and throat diseases due to the increased flow of fresh blood to these areas
  • Relieves stress and mild depression, the set of yoga processes for dissipating stress incomplete without Uttanasana
  • Relieves insomnia, helps induce sleep,  and the headache
  • manage conditions like Helps Asthma, Osteoporosis, and Sinusitis