Image credit: Antanas Kaziliūnas
Forward bends can be seated or standing. When your legs are straight in the bend, practice the same alignment points as you would in Tadasana. You fold from the hips and not the waist. On inhales, practice lifting in the abdomen and the pelvic floor, broadening across the chest, and on exhales, folding deeper into the posture while keeping the core engaged. Remember to keep the neck long and shoulders relaxed away from the ears. Focus is on lengthening in the front body versus rounding in the back body. When going from a forward bend to a counterpose like a backbend, offer a transition pose in between (like supta baddha konasana in between paschimottanasana and setu bandha sarvangasana or bridge pose).
- Standing forward bends are considered inversions since the heart is above the head. You get all the benefits that you would get from practicing an inversion (increases circulation of body’s different systems, reverses effects of gravity, improves digestion, can heighten mood, has respiratory benefits, as examples).
- You get an amazing stretch for the calves & hamstrings (with straight legs & active muscle engagement).
- The back of the body receives the stretch as well.
- Digestion is improved not only from the inversion effects but also from the compression on the abdominal organs.
- Folds have a calming and relaxing effect, which can lower blood pressure or relieve headaches.
- They aid in helping people let go mentally and emotionally of blockages.
1. Prasarita Padottanasana series (Intense Spread Leg Stretch)
Bend knees slightly to help elongate spine.
2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Newer to the practice? Start with feet hips distance and parallel for easier balance and if hamstrings are tight. Use blocks under hands to help get the back flat.
3. Padangusthasana (Foot to Fingers Forward Bend)
It is ok to bend your knees versus rounding in the back. As flexibility develops, slowly work to straighten your legs.
4. Padahastasana (Hand Under Foot Pose)
Bend the knees as you're starting out to really get the benefits of the wrist stretch – toes should be pressing into the creases of the wrist.
5. Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold)
Turn this into a restorative pose before bed by adding a bolster or pillow under the torso for support.
6. Paschimottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Try with bent knees or use a strap with straight legs if hamstrings are tight.
7. Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Seated Cross Legged Forward Fold)
For extra opening in the hips! Make sure you switch the cross of your legs and do it on each side.
8. Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
To add a shoulder stretch, clasp opposite elbows behind back or take reverse Namaste.