Today’s Baptiste Yoga Every Damn Day is about two poses in the Sun Salutation often seen as lackluster. Forward Fold (Uttanasana) and Halfway Lift (Urdhva Mukha Uttanasana) look easy, but they actually require a bit of body awareness and concentration to execute. The Sanskrit word “Ut” in Uttanasana means intense which I found confusing as a beginner because these two poses didn’t illicit many feelings of intensity. These two poses are very warming to the core and the lower body, and if you remember a few key alignment points you can turn a sloppy fold into an intense part of your Sun Salutation.
Start in Mountain pose. On your exhale, hinge at the hips and lower your hands to the floor. The hinging at the hips is important and requires the engagement of the core. So, you aren’t just bending over; you are actively crunching the abdominal muscles to meet your torso with your legs. Here I have shown how to and how not to perform said action.
Once you are in Forward Fold, pull the abdomen to the spine while pressing your feet firmly into the mat. Tilt your tailbone toward the ceiling. With every inhale expand and lengthen the spine, and with every exhale pull the entire abdomen in. If your hamstrings feel tight, keep the knees bent. Your hands can rest on the floor, your ankles, or on blocks.
To transition to Halfway Lift, place your hands on the floor (or on blocks) and straighten the spine. Like we talked about yesterday with Downward Facing Dog, don’t get caught up in the “straighten your legs or else” club. Spinal alignment is most important, and you can bend your knees as much as you need. Create a straight line between the crown of the head and the tailbone by pressing the hips back and pressing the chest forward. Pull the abdomen into the spine. This is preparing your body for the next pose in the Sun Salutation which is Plank or Chaturanga Dandasana.
These two poses often don’t get the attention and presence they deserve because they look very simple, and they aren’t as glamourous as a Chaturanga or a well-executed Flip Dog. I get it though. Everyone wants to be outstanding and impressive or at least be able to say they are working on getting that way. If you practice with some of the cues I gave, you will probably find that Uttanasana isn’t THAT easy, and it is called “intense” for a reason. In this pose, you are required to look beyond the surface appearance of things and really get IN them to experience them for yourself. The more we experience the more we increase our understanding of others and ultimately ourselves. Examine your judgments about other people, their behavior, or their treatment of you. Have you been in their position? Before engaging in that process of, “Yes, I’ve been there and acted SO much better than them,” really take the time to be objective. Ask yourself, “How would someone act in this situation in response to me?” Step into someone else’s experience for a moment. Again, move away from harsh self-judgment, and just experience someone else’s shoes in all their intensity.
This is just the beginning of a process. Experience exists to increase our own understanding. Sometimes we have to experience an event or the same occurrence 10, 50, 1000 times before we gain any sort of knowledge. Through this understanding, we can make the choice to have compassion. When we genuinely have compassion, only then we have peace of mind.