Flowing from the last post, our Sun Salutation starts with reaching our arms up in urdhva hastasana, then we fold forward to Uttanasana. Bowing down to salute the sun has many benefits. Stretching the hamstrings and lengthening the entire back of the body is the intention. Folding forward is also a great way to decompress the spine. Going upside down is a nice way to change the orientation to gravity to bring blood flow to the brain. After a long day sitting or standing, allowing the spine to release in a forward fold can be a a quick way to "wake up"! There are two versions I would like to share today:
1.) Sukha Uttanasana - (Easeful Stretch Pose) is when you are folded over with bent legs. I like to place focus on lengthening the vertebrae versus lengthening the legs. Allow gravity to be the primary force. When I practice and when I teach, I create space to be really easeful in my first forward fold. I usually have my knees bent enough so my thighs make contact with my belly. I hold opposite elbows and sway side to side. Shaking my head yes and no allows me to feel like I am releasing tension in my face, jaw and neck. When I look around the class, there are always a few yogis that still keep their cervical (neck) muscles engaged. Reminding them to release the back of the neck, I see the head slowly drop even more. During this easeful forward fold, I like to invite the yogis in my class to "shake it out." I do this by doing little bounces of the knees while the spine is flexed over. I energetically visualize that I am releasing any extra energy that I might of picked up from others throughout the day or week.
2.) Uttanasana - An active forward fold. Working towards lengthening the legs, reach the crown towards the Earth. Keep weight forward with the hips of the heels and intention on lengthening the whole backline of the body. Allow the trapezius muscles to stay soft. Focus on creating space out the back of the heart and especially the backs of the legs where the hamstring will experience a juicy stretch.
Below is a video of how I open up and lengthen the back of the body in uttanasana, as I flow through the Sun Salutations, I invite you to press play and come play! Namaste.