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Poses for Your Hamstrings

4 Ways to Adapt Standing Forward Bend to Your Body and Needs

Uttanasana is a soothing fold that stretches your back body while helping to calm and relax your mind.

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In this asana column, we start with the traditional form and alignment of a pose, and then offer three adaptations, to help any body access the benefits of the posture and move safely through sequences and stretches. Here, four ways to find the physical and emotional benefits of High Lunge.

See also Yoga Anatomy: Safely Care for Your Body as You Practice Forward Bends

Christopher Dougherty

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) Pose Step-by-Step Instructions

A. From Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your hands at your hips, inhale to lengthen your spine. Engage your quadriceps by lifting them up and away from your kneecaps.

B. Exhale, hinging at your hips. As you fold your torso to your legs, let the crown of your head descend toward the floor. If you can reach your mat, place your hands on either side of your feet, aligning your fingers with your toes. Use blocks if you can’t reach the floor.

C. Inhale, and straighten your arms, lifting your chest up and out. Shift your body weight toward the balls of your feet, stacking your hips above your heels.

D. With your weight forward and your front body long, exhale.

E. Draw your shoulder blades down toward your sacrum so the base of your neck is long and unrestricted.

F. Continue engaging your quadriceps to facilitate the release of your hamstrings.

G. Hold for 5–10 breaths.

H. Inhale, and draw your chest up and out again, extending your sternum away from your navel and broadening your collarbones. Exhale, and put your hands on your hips.

I. Inhale, root down firmly with your feet, and use your legs to lift your torso back up to Tadasana. 

3 Adaptations of Standing Forward Bend

Find a back and hamstring stretch that meets you where you are in these three variations of the pose.

Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend) with Blocks


Try using blocks to keep your hands grounded rather than straining to touch the floor. This makes it easier to keep your chest open with your core muscles engaged. Bend your knees slightly if it’s more comfortable.

Try these yoga blocks to give you a boost in this pose.

Bent-Knee Standing Forward Bend


Firm your thighs together, allowing your knees to bend. This will focus the stretch in the bellies of your hamstring muscles rather than at the attachments, creating more stability. 

Standing Forward Bend on a Chair


For a more relaxed version of the pose, bring your forearms and head to rest on the seat of a chair. Optional: Bend your knees to lessen the intensity of the stretch.

This yoga chair can give you a different experience of this asana, and many other poses!

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