Ardha Uttanasana may seem like a very easy pose to perform at first glance. However, if the practitioner has unstretched hamstrings, calves, inner thighs, hips that lack mobility, and unstretched lower back, this position can be very demanding regardless of whether it falls under the category of basic yoga poses. If we were to translate the name of this pose completely from Sanskrit, its name would read as semi-intensive stretching. Ardha means half while Uttana means intense stretching.
Ardha Uttanasana and Sun Salutation
The pose itself represents a part of the sequence from Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation is a dynamic movement that is practiced both in Hatha yoga and in Ashtanga and Vinyasa systems. The Sun Salutation in Hatha yoga is of course the basic one. There are two variations in the Ashtanga system: Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B. The main difference is in the number of elements that each contains. For example, in Sun Salutation B, an element is added, specifically the Warrior 1 position. On the other hand, in the Vinyasa system, it’s all up to the instructor/teacher on what kind of flow will he design during the Sun Salutation movement. In that way, his knowledge of anatomy as well as his creativity come to light. Regardless, Ardha Uttanasana is an integral part of every Sun Salutation. Essentially, it represents a transition from one pose to another.
Variations, Drishti (Gaze), and Limitations
When performing the pose itself, if the practitioner cannot place his fingertips or palms on the yoga mat, and that his back remains largely straight in relation to the yoga mat (at least the lower part of the back), he can use blocks as an aid. Given that the blocks offer three different heights, the practitioner himself can choose the height that suits him at the given moment according to his readiness. Of course, over time, he can completely remove the blocks and place his palms or fingertips on the yoga mat.
There is also an option for the practioner to keep the back stretched by resting the palms on the shins. The practitioner can practice this position even when his hamstrings are not fully stretched, but also when he does not yet have good rotation in his hips. A variation with slightly bent legs at the knees is also offered.
When it comes to the gaze, the gaze in this pose is at the tip of the nose. The full pose means that the neck is stretched long and the gaze is at the tip of the nose. However, if the practitioner has neck problems, there is no need for neck stretching. He can still look at the tip of his nose even when his neck is bent, more precisely when he has moved his chin slightly towards the sternum. The practitioner should strive to achieve the fine alignment in the ankles, knees and hips. When lowering, a good way to become aware of the lowering and that it happens from the hips is to place the palms on the hips. In that way, the practitioner will be aware of the rotation of the hips. He will not allow the bending to happen from the waist. The inhalation in this pose takes place up before going down. Shifting the weight is also an important part of the pose.
It often happens that the practitioners who are at the beginning of their practice unconsciously transfer a greater part of the weight to the toes instead of the heels. In order for this not to happen, the legs must be fully activated when performing this pose. That is, the toes of the feet are squeezing the yoga mat, the muscles of the calves and thighs are tightened, and the kneecaps are raised upwards. It would be very useful in this pose to activate the two lower bandhas, the mula, and the uddiyana bandha.
Especially if the Sun Salutations A and B are practiced in the Ashtanga system, where there is a jump in chaturanga after this pose. Consequently, the activation of lower bandhas is absolutely necessary during this transition. It is also important when transferring the weight that the weight is also not transferred to a greater extent on the fingertips or palms. So, about 70% of the weight should be on the heels.
The regular practice of this pose can lead to strengthening of the lower back. This pose also affects the strengthening of the practitioner’s core. This is especially important for people who, due to long and irregular sitting, feel pain in the lower back and muscle weakness in that part of the body. Of course, pain in the lower back can also occur due to long and irregular standing or due to lifting or carrying heavy things. This pose also affects the lengthening of the entire spine. Practicing Ardha Uttanasana, the practitioner stretches the groin, calves, hamstrings, and the inner thighs. The hips become more mobile and flexible. There is a strengthening of the ankle joints, especially when the fine alignment is done and the weight is transferred to the heels.
It should be kept in mind that this pose is excellent for calming the mind, more precisely for relaxing the entire nervous system.
When we talk about the benefits of this pose on a spiritual level, it affects the activation of the third eye and the heart chakra. In case the practitioner wants to work more on opening the heart chakra, he can use the wall as a support. In that case, the forearms rest on the wall. The forearms are shoulder-width apart and the elbows are in line with the shoulders. Feel free to spread your fingers as wide as you can. In that way, you get better support. In this pose, there is a greater opening of the chest, thus greater activation of the heart chakra. This variation can also be used as a preparatory pose for more demanding pose. One of them is Pincha Mayurasana. Conclusion Although it seems like an easy pose at first glance, it should not be underestimated, especially if you have just started your yoga practice. If this is the case, enter it very slowly, without any sudden movements, especially if you have recently had injuries or operations on the neck, spine, or legs. If the pose itself is physically challenging for you to do it completely, apply the listed variations and use the blocks.
Although it seems like an easy pose at first glance, it should not be underestimated, especially if you have just started your yoga practice. If this is the case, enter it very slowly, without any sudden movements, especially if you have recently had injuries or operations on the neck, spine, or legs.
If the pose itself is physically challenging for you to do it completely, apply the listed variations and use the blocks.
If you practice only this pose, feel free to breathe in three layers. However, if it is a sequence within the Sun Salutation, apply the breathing that corresponds to the style of yoga in which it is practiced.