Ardha Uttanasana stretches the hamstrings, calf muscles, and lower back, and works the quadriceps, says Lori Lipton, an Iyengar yoga teacher at Unity Woods Yoga Center in Washington, D.C.
How to do it:
- Stand facing a wall, about 6 inches away, with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Place your palms on the wall just above waist level.
- Inhale, and as you exhale, begin to walk your feet back, bending at the hips so they stay over the ankles and your torso is parallel to the ground; you'll form an upside-down L. Keep your back flat and your neck long.
- Press through your feet, firm your quadriceps to lift your knees, and begin to pull your thighs back. You'll feel the stretch in the hamstrings and the lower back. Hold for 5 to 7 breaths.
- To come out of the pose, bend your knees slightly, walk back toward the wall, and stand up.
Tips: If you can't keep your back flat, move your palms higher up the wall to achieve a straight spine. Sciatica sufferers should keep their legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, turning their toes in and heels out.