The Sun Salutation - Step 3 - Uttanasana

Complete Yoga Breath
with Sound!

Links to Sun Series

Click to enlarge images below for complete instructions.

Steps 1, 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

Step 8

Step 9

Step 10

Steps 11, 12

Sun Salutation
to print!
My teacher, Eugenia Basilewsky, Stockholm, Sweden. She is in her 60s here. She is now 88.

The Forward Bend


This is a very powerful Yoga posture (asana). It is repeated in Step 10. The image (left) is only to show you the goal. If you have not practiced Yoga, please do not use force to attempt this position. This is a posture that you work your way down to. You can find more content about the Forward Bend in the Postures series.

This is called Uttanasana in Sanskrit, which in simple terms means to stretch every muscle and lengthen your body with intention. When we practice Yoga, we always allow the body to stretch at its own pace. This is how the body becomes agile—not through force.

The Goal

The goal is to work with the body enough to finally get into this position with ease. Believe it or not, even if you are very stiff—patience and persistence will change that!
  • As you exhale, pull the small of your back in and stick your chest out in front of you as you let your upper body sink forward and down at the same time—as close to your thighs as possible. Your back is as straight as possible when you come forward. Injury could result if you roll forward and down with your spine.
  • Let your arms hang down, loose. If you can reach the floor, place the palms of your hands on the floor next to your feet. If you can't reach the floor, place your hands anywhere on your thighs, calves, or ankles to help balance your body. If your head is hanging down loose, you can also look at your knees to help maintain your balance.
  • Keep your knees straight to get the full effect of this posture. If you feel any pain in your back, bend your knees to make this easier. From this position, you are going to inhale into Step 4, which follows.

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How-To Tips

If you have a stiff back or hamstrings, there is a Forward Bend Variation that you can do instead.

There are several preliminary stretches that will help you to finally attain the goal shown above. If you already have back problems and find it difficult to move forward, try this:
  • Stand with your buttocks against a wall. Place your feet (hip-width apart) two feet from the wall. Bend your knees so you are comfortable.
  • Now it should be possible to bend forward with your back straight and to let your upper body start to hang like a rag doll. Your neck is loose and your head just hangs down (you are not holding your head up, which is a common mistake people make).
  • Place your hands on your knees to support your body. If you want to push your hands on your knees and stretch the small of the back forward, that is another option. This can be very helpful for anyone who is too stiff to do do the full posture.

  • If you can move forward easily, look at how Eugenia is placing the palms of her hands on the floor next to her feet. Her knees are straight. Again, if you have back pain, bend your knees slightly to make it easier.

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Additional tips

  • Once you get into this position, visualize that you are lifting your buttocks as high as possible, so your weight is evenly distributed.
  • Remember to stand as instructed in the first position, with the heels and balls of your feet evenly placed on the floor and your big toes touching your other toes stretched and spread out evenly. Try to bring more of your weight to the balls of your feet as you lift your buttocks up higher. This is a great stretch!

Restorative Yoga Posture Benefits

This is a healing posture. Some of the healing benefits include:
  • Helps digestive problems.
  • Strengthens stomach muscles.
  • Helps to lose weight around the waist.
  • Stretches the legs and gets blood to the head without doing a headstand.
  • If you have high or low blood pressure, do this many times throughout the day (but 3 hours after a meal). It will help to stabilize blood pressure. Inhale first and then exhale, pull in your tummy and move forward and down. Hold for a minute or two as you breathe from your abdomen.
  • Every muscle in the body is stretched and lengthened. This helps the nervous system to relax.
  • The blood flow into the head helps eyestrain, sinus, headaches.

This is one of those Yoga asanas that seems to have an effect on every part of the body. If you do this before getting into bed, it will clear your mind and make it easier to sleep. And if you are already working on perfecting the headstand, this is a great posture to do before that.

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