Interested in how to do a forward fold? Whether you are a beginner looking for the basics or an experienced yogi looking for tips and tricks let’s discuss Uttanasana. In this forward fold tutorial, I’ll explain the pose step-by-step, plus discuss modifications for accessibility.
Uttanasana, standing forward fold, is a basic yoga pose. It’s a pose done in many yoga classes and often. Yet, as a basic pose, it’s easy to overlook it needing a tutorial. However, sometimes we need to get back to basics and learn with an open mind, and heart.
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Forward Fold Tutorial
Standing forward fold, or Uttanasana, is a misunderstood pose. In a nutshell, it’s folding your body over itself at the hip. However, the reality may not be so easy. In part due to tight muscles, postural issues, and muscle imbalances.
Standing with the feet approximately hip-distance apart, from the hips hinge forward so that the chest lowers towards the thighs. Let the hands connect to something. Be it the floor, blocks, shins, or a chair. Relax the head, neck, and shoulders.
Experience the pose, and then notice:
- Where is the weight in feet? On the ball or heel of the foot?
- Are the feet parallel, pigeon-toed or duck-footed?
- Do you have more weight to the inside or outside edge of the feet?
- Does one foot have more weight?
- Can you straighten the legs?
- Where do you feel tightness or restriction?
Breathe into your back body allowing yourself to sink and surrender into the fold. Think less about reaching and more about melting.
Modifications for beginners
Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned yogi, sometimes we just need some tips and tricks to make the poses more accessible. So in this forward fold tutorial I have added a couple of modifications to ease into the pose a little deeper, with a little less effort.
If you are in the group of people who simply don’t fold, but instead hunch then support! Spinal flexion under load (gravity is a load!) is bad body karma just waiting to squish and pinch your discs.
Instead, support the weight of the torso somewhat using a chair or blocks under the hands. Try not to push into the support, but simply allow the arms to fall. Spreading the load.
Got the hinge, but the hamstrings are screaming? Where is the tension? If it’s in the middle of the muscle at the back of the thigh, then simply back off a little, and wait. However, if the screaming sensation is in the butt, or behind the knee, we need much, much less.
This pulling at either end of the muscle means we’ve gone too far and we need to back off. One of the quick and easy fixes for this is to bend the knees. Yes, newsflash, your legs DO NOT have to be straight. In fact, a micro bend is best to ensure muscular activation. If you try this, notice what new sensations arise now the hamstrings have quietened.
When looking at other forward fold tutorials one modification I rarely see is to elevate the heels. Why lift the heels? Because sometimes what we think is hamstring tightness is actually calf tightness. Try your standing forward fold on a Yoga Wedge, or with the heels lifted on a blanket.
If by raising the heels your forward fold becomes ten times easier then maybe your calves are your problem. This is also just a fun way to experience the pose and get deeper without pulling too much. We make the pose shift muscular focus.
Sometimes doing less is what we need to progress. Forcing ourselves into poses can lead to pain and injury. Remember that yoga props are there for a reason, and there is no shame in using them!
- Can you touch your toes?
- Do you use props in forward fold?
- What is your area of muscle tightness?