Pose Breakdown – Halfway Lift (Ardha Uttanasana)

by | Apr 5, 2017 | asana, poses | 4 comments

Halfway Lift (Ardha Uttanasana) is one of my favorite poses! But I look around and it seems like most of the room is just trying to get through it and onto the next thing. I understand it’s not much to look at but there are so many great benefits to doing this pose well.

One of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin (and she’s only half my favorite because we share names :P) says “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile”.

This is super applicable to yoga poses. Yes it’s cool if you do an awesome Wheel Pose once. But really it’s the poses you do in every class that actually make a difference in your body. In one vinyasa style yoga class you could do Halfway Lift 20 times, maybe more. Every time you do a sun salutation you’ll practice it twice.

So let’s give some thought to this oft-overlooked pose.

The difference between a really awesome Halfway Lift pose and a halfway decent one is all in the spine. Sometimes it’s referred to as a flat back but I find it’s more helpful to work towards a shape like Cow Pose.

Cat Pose – the rounding that you do here is flexion of the spine. It’s a fine range of motion- unless you have osteopenia or osteoperosis in which case you need to avoid this shape. But when you do this action in halfway lift gravity is pulling your upper body towards the ground and you can over stretch or strain your back.

Cow pose – this is extension of the spine. When the back extensor muscles engage they create this shape. Those are the muscles you want to recruit in Halfway Lift. By going towards this shape you’re turning on those muscles and it should keep your back safer than it would if you were rounding.

That’s when you really start to strengthen your back muscles which is what I’m currently thinking is the key to this pose. We don’t do enough back strengthening work in most yoga classes, or life really. Therefore any chance you get to strengthen them is important.

Here are some other key pieces of alignment for this Halfway Lift:

The most important being – do whatever you have to with your arms and legs in order to find a long strong spine.


Bend your knees if your hamstrings are tight to free up your pelvis to move.

On the left I’m keeping my legs straight which pulls my pelvis into this rounded shape. When I bend the knees it frees up my pelvis to move (more info on that in my Yoga for a Happy Back post).

Elevate your hands either to blocks or to your legs so you’re not rounding in your upper body.

Again you can see when I try to keep my hands on the ground it means my spine has to round. Personally I like using blocks, it means I can shift my weight forward a little, and I feel stronger in it. You decide for you!

Press into your hands and reach your chest forward to emphasize the cow shape but don’t go too far.

Pull your low ribs in and keep your neck as an extension of your spine instead of leading with your chin.

Power up your legs and press your outer thighs out to align your knees right over your ankles.

This is subtle. On the left my knees are knocking in towards one another. On the right I’m rooting into my feet and pressing my legs out to turn on my outer thighs.

If you do all of that Halfway Lift becomes a pretty powerful pose. And that’s part of what we’re doing in yoga, finding the power in each pose. However “small” it might appear from the outside.

What’s your favorite pose? Do you have a pose you think is overlooked? Let me know below!