Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend)
How to do it
Begin standing with your feet hip distance apart.
Inhale: Sweep your arms up.
Exhale: Gradually contract your abdomen as you bend forward, bending your knees a bit.
Inhale: Lift your upper body about halfway up, bringing your arms out to the sides.
Exhale: Bend down, moving your chest toward the thighs.
Repeat the halfway lift a few times and then stay in a forward bend, gently pulling your chest toward your thighs with every exhalation. Keep your knees slightly bent.
Breathing in Ardha Uttanasana
INHALE: Lift your chest away from the navel while maintaining the neutral curve of your lower back.
EXHALE: Progressively contract your abdomen to create support for your lower back. Keep your spine long and your feet firmly planted.
One arm extended
Ardha Uttanasana: One arm extended emphasizes the strengthening of the lower back one side at a time. It also encourages you to use your abdomen to support your lower back, which is a very useful relationship to develop. You can stay in the half-way position for several breaths if you want a bit more challenge.
Ardha Uttanasana: Cactus arms strengthens both the lower back and upper back. It’s useful to combine it with Uttanasana which will stretch those same areas (when you bring your chest to your thighs). It is essential to use progressive abdominal contraction when you hold the pose to keep yourself safe and supported.
Ardha Uttanasana: Arm pull is even better for strengthening both the lower back and upper back. The emphasis here is on the upper back and neck. To keep your lower back safe be sure to maintain abdominal contraction when you keep your upper body raised.
Ardha Uttanasana: Chin tuck is great for working with the neck and upper back while keeping the lower back supported. Usually we would repeat the head movement a few times to release tension and then stay in the pose, keeping the back of the neck elongated and moving the shoulders away from the ears. This helps to lengthen the spine and strengthen the neck, upper and lower back without strain.
One arm salute
Ardha Uttanasana: One arm salute is great for strengthening both your lower and upper back one side at a time. When you lift half-way with your elbow out to the side, it strengthens the entire area around your shoulder blade. This works well if you tend to get tension in that area. (Just remember to stretch it afterwards by wrapping the arms around the knees in a forward bend)
Ardha Uttanasana: Arms out combined with Uttanasana with knees generously bent is one the most useful combinations to increase circulation both into the upper and lower back and to release tension there. You end up both strengthening and stretching those areas while still keeping it accessible to most students.
One arm support
Ardha Uttanasana: One arm support is excellent for strengthening each side of the back separately. It teaches you proper form in the pose and over time prepares you for the full version of the pose with both arms extended.
Ardha Uttanasana: With chair creates support for the lower back and also encourages the student to pay more attention to proper pose technique. This pose is useful beyond a chair yoga class and still works really well for strengthening the lower back (on the way up).
With chair seat
Ardha Uttanasana: With chair seat takes it one step further by encouraging the student to bend further forward (compared to bringing the hands to the back of the chair). Your body will also have to travel farther on the way up, which means that you will strengthen your lower back even more. This version is also very useful for troubleshooting the Uttanasana technique.
Ardha Uttanasana + Ardha Utkatasana
Ardha Uttanasana + Ardha Utkatasana is a great way to warm up the entire back, compensate for other, more challenging poses and prepare for other versions of this pose. After repeating the movement few times you can stay in either Ardha Uttanasana (to strengthen the back and neck and to lengthen the spine) or Utkatasana (to stretch the back and relax the neck).