By discovering as much length in your front body as you can before you fold forward in Ardha Uttanasana, you strengthen your back and legs in preparation for more intense forward bends later on.
(Pronounced as "are-dah oot-TAHN-AHS-anna")
The Sanskrit words ardha and uttanasana mean "half of an intense stretch."
Stand with your feet at hip-width apart. Turn the toes in slightly while keeping the outside edges of your feet straight and perfectly parallel with each other. Inhale as you stretch both of your arms straight up to the sky as high as you can. Look up at the ceiling right between your hands.
Slowly exhale as you gradually bend forward from the hips while you keep looking between your hands. Continue reaching forward with your arms as you come down. Bend forward as far as you can while lengthening your torso. If you are very flexible, then it will be easy for you to place your fingertips on the floor next to your feet. However, you are free to stop bending forward whenever you have reached down as far as you can.
Now breathe in as you straighten your arms. If you are stiff, press your hands on your knees or right below the knees at the tops of your shins. Otherwise, come onto your fingertips if your hands are on the blocks or the floor. Arch up your torso and lengthen your entire front body from your pelvis to your neck. Lift your sternum and look in front of you. Keep your legs straight. If you find yourself bending your knees to arch forward, then it means you have bent down too far. Come up a little and straighten your knees instead to protect your back. Hold the pose for as long as you can while breathing normally.
To come out, release your head to let it hang down. Inhale as you roll your torso slowly up while your legs remain straight.
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