Ardha Uttanasana or Half-Lift pose is part of the Sun Salutation and performed many times in a yoga practice. It is a great pose to build strength in your core and back, if done correctly. If it is not done correctly, you can strain your lower back and create muscle memory that enhances bad posture.
Here are a few common things I see students doing in half-lift that do not enhance the benefits of this pose and ways to engage in half-lift pose to get the most benefits.
1) Locking at the knees. Locking knees puts strain on the knee joint and connective tissues surrounding the knees. It can also strain the lower back tissues.
Best Practice – Keep your knees a little soft and add a slight rotation activation to your feet. This will stabilize and strengthen the knee joint and muscles surrounding it. It also takes the pressure off the lower back.
2) Not engaging your core muscles. When we hinge at our hips, like when we fold over our legs, it can pull on the lower back. This is particular concerning if you have tighter hamstrings.
Best Practice – Use your core for support. Start by rooting the knuckle of your big toes into the floor. There is a support line that runs from the bottom of your foot to your core. Engage your transverse abdominus. This muscle wraps around your midsection and will help support the spine. Think about pulling your hip points towards each other to engage the transverse abdominus.
3) Rounding in the upper back. Pulling your chest inward in the half-lift pose reinforces poor posture. Most of us spend a lot of time seated, in front of a computer, driving or on the couch. This seated position helps create a rounded upper back and pulls the shoulders forward.
Best Practice – Pull your shoulder blades down and towards each other or you can think about pushing your heart forward. In the half-lift pose you want to think about your back being in same position as when you are in a table pose. The spine is neutral, is just takes more work to keep this way in the half-lift pose.
When we do something repeatedly it builds muscle memory in our body. This can have negative or positive effects on the body. When you perform half-lift pose using the best practices, we are creating positive effects on our muscles, connective tissues and whole body