Half Forward Fold has many names. In the Sanskrit language of yoga it is called, Ardha Uttanasana (AR-dah oot-ta-NAH-sa-nah). The visual image it creates has evoked many other nomikers: half forward bend, flat back and standing table top.
Despite its variety of tags, Ardha Uttanasana is the same yoga pose that will lengthen the spine and stretch the muscles along the back of the hips, hamstrings, calves and neck. Practising Half Forward Fold will help to stretch the muscles along the back of your body. Longer muscles and a relaxed frame of mind will help you develop better flexibility. Another gift from the Half Forward Fold is that it can be used as a substitute for a full forward fold if your hamstrings are tight or if you experience dizziness during a deep forward bend. Half forward fold gives similar benefits to the full fold without asking as much of your body. Because it is easier to accomplish, you gain confidence from its practise and discover psychological comfort as well as physical.
Finding your Fold
Half Forward Fold begins with Mountain Pose. Inhale as you stretch your arms overhead. Exhale at your full height, fingertips reaching toward the sky and pressing your feet firmly into the ground. Take a new breath pulling your navel towards your spine and tipping forward from the hips as you reach wide with your arms to open your chest. Exhale as you begin to press your tailbone away from the front of your body and bring your chest parallel with the ground placing your palms against your shins a little below the cap of your knee. Now that your back is flat, inhale as you draw your shoulders towards your hips to lengthen your neck and exhale as your shoulder blades press together. Lift your tailbone a little higher and bring your chin toward your chest to intensify the stretch to your spine.
Notice the lengthening of the hamstrings as you tilt the tailbone upwards. Press down into the ground with your whole foot and be aware of the straight line from your insteps up the inside of the legs to the groin muscles. Continue to draw your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Roll some of your body weight into your heels (free your toes if you like) and lift your tailbone to increase the length along the back of the legs. Allow your head to align with your straight spine and become part of it. Focus your eye gaze softly on the floor and relax through your face and neck.
Still your mind, deepen your breath and enjoy the new space in your spine.