Half standing forward bend Ardha uttanasana

The Sanskrit word ardha (pronounced ahrd-ha) means "half." The half standing forward bend strengthens your legs, back, shoulders, and arms and improves stamina. Here's how you do it:

1. Start in the mountain posture and as you inhale, raise your arms forward and then up overhead as in the standing forward bend (see the preceding section).

2. As you exhale, bend forward from your hips.

Soften your knees and hang your arms.

3. Bend your knees, and as you inhale, raise your torso and arms up from the front so that they're parallel to the floor as shown in Figure 7-3.

If you have any back problems, keep your arms back by your sides, and then over a period of time gradually stretch them out to the sides like a T and eventually in front of you so they're parallel to the floor.

4. Bring your head to a neutral position so that your ears are between your arms.

Look down and a little forward. To make the posture easier, move your arms back toward your hips — the further back, the easier.

5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 three times and then stay in Step 4 for 6 to 8 breaths.

Figure 7-3:

The half standing forward bend is great for stamina.

Figure 7-3:

The half standing forward bend is great for stamina.

Half Forward Bend Ardha Uttanasana

Note: In the classical version of this posture, the feet are together and the legs and arms are straight.

The asymmetrical forward bend stretches each side of the back and hamstrings separately. The Sanskrit word parshva (pronounced pahr-shvah) means "side" or "flank," and this posture indeed opens the hips, tones the abdomen, decompresses the neck, improves balance, and increases circulation to the upper torso and head.

1. Stand in the mountain posture and as you exhale, step forward about 3 to 3V2 feet (or the length of one leg) with your right foot.

Your left foot turns out naturally, but if you need more stability turn it out more (so that the toes point to the left.)

2. Place your hands on the top of your hips and square the front of your pelvis; release your hands and hang your arms.

3. As you inhale, raise your arms forward and then overhead as shown in Figure 7-4a.

4. As you exhale, bend forward from the hips, soften your right knee and both arms, and hang down as Figure 7-4b illustrates.

If your head isn't close to your right knee, bend your knee more. If you have the flexibility, straighten your right knee but keep it soft.

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