30 Jan The Best Forward Bends For You
Forward bends are very common in Yoga and there are so many different variations of them that we may find ourselves doing one without even realising it.
There are many benefits to forward bends which is why they are so widely carried out within sequences during a yoga class.
Here are some of the key benefits:
Creates length and space in the spine.
Stretches the calves and hamstrings.
Helps to calm the mind and focus the attention inwards.
Allows fresh oxygen-rich blood to flow to your brain which rejuvenates and revitalizes cells and gives the entire body a quick boost of oxygen and in turn can make you feel more energised.
Give some of my favourite forward bends a try which, if you attend my classes, you will know I love to sneak into a sequence somewhere!
Forward Bend – Uttanasana
- As you stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), place your hands on your hips and inhale.
- As you exhale, soften your knees and fold slowly forward from your hips. Counter balance your body weight by moving your tailbone and hips back slightly as the body leans forward.
- Rest your hands on the ground beside your feet or hold onto your elbows. Ensure that your feet are still parallel.
- If the hamstrings feel ease in this stretch, slowly extend your knees more while pushing your sit bones up to the ceiling.
- Let your head dangle so the crown of yourhead reaches down to the floor so your gaze is through the legs.
- Hold for several slow breathes. To exit, contract your abdominal and core muscles.
- As you inhale, place your hands on your hips, soften your knees, and reach your chest far forward. Rise up from your hips keeping your back long. Keep the length between the pubis and chest bone. Continue to lengthen your torso as you come up to standing.
Seated Forward Fold – Paschimottanasana
- Start in Staff Pose (Sitting on the floor with your legs stretch out in front of you.
- On an inhalation, reach your fingers towards the sky to create length in your side bodies.
- As you exhale, lean forward from your hip joints, not bending at the waist.
- If your hands make contact with your toes, grab on to the outside of your foot. If not, place your hands on your shins, or take a strap around your feet and hold the strap.
- Stay here for a few breaths, and then begin to deepen the pose by moving with your breath. Keep your spine long and your gaze at your feet. With each inhalation, lift and lengthen your front torso, and with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. Eventually, you may be able to stretch your arms out beyond the feet on the floor.
- Stay here and breathe for 1-3 minutes, then return to Staff Pose.
Extended Childs Pose – Baslasana
- Start by kneeling on your hands and knees.
- Release your toes on the floor and separate your knees about hip width apart.
- As you exhale, slowly lower your buttocks towards your heels feeling the tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis.
- As your torso folds over your thighs, lengthen the back of your neck before your forehead rests on the floor.
- Allow your arms to lengthen forwards, spreading the fingers on the mat and taking the elbows off the mat. VARIATION: Lay your arms by the thighs with palms facing up and feel how the weight of your shoulders lightly spreads the shoulder blades.
- Take several slow breaths into the belly and lower your back as you rest here.
- As you exit, inhale and lengthen the torso forward over the thighs and rise up.
Wide Legged Forward Fold – Prasarita Padottanasana
- Start in Mountain Pose at the front of your mat. On an inhale, step your right foot towards the back of your mat so your body is facing the long edge of your mat.
- Bring your hands out at shoulder height, above your feet. Heel-toe your feet to position them directly underneath your hands. Bring your hands to your hips.
- Push your hands down into your hips. As you inhale lengthen your heart and chest skywards to create length in your torso. As you exhale, slowly dive forward towards the mat, bringing your fingertips to touch the mat or a block in front of your face.
- As you lengthen the crown of your head down to the ground, push your sitting bones upwards towards the ceiling. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged as you lengthen out your spine.
- VARIATIONS: Reach your hands straight back underneath your legs, placing your hands on your mat; bend your elbows and place your palms flat underneath your shoulders and in line with your toes; place your forearms on the ground beside your head; or hold onto your big toes with your first two fingers.
6. Stay here for up to 1 minute. To exit the pose, slowly walk your hands forwards until your torso is parallel to the floor. Engage your core and bring your hands to your hips. As you inhale, lift your torso up, leading with your heart. Step forwards to Mountain Pose.
Intense Side Stretch Pose – Parsvottanasana
1. Start in Warrior 1 pose, with your right leg forwards and your left leg behind you. Bring your hands to your hips and straighten your right leg. Actively square your hips, so that your hip bones are parallel with the front of your mat.
2. Find an inhale and lengthen your torso. On the exhale, fold forward from the hips, ensuring to keep your hips square. Stop when your torso becomes parallel with the floor. Your right hip will want to pull forwards, but continue to draw it back to keep it in line with your left hip. Keep your spine long.
3. Pause here for a few breaths. If you have the flexibility, you can fold in deeply towards your right leg and bring your fingertips to the floor. Continue to keep your spine long.
4. Stay here for up to 1 minute. To exit the pose, bring your hands to your hips and lift your torso as you inhale. Switch sides.
Try these poses after a long day or after a good workout session.
Partner these with my 5 Top Twists for the perfect sequence – Click here to see them.