Forward bend poses account for between 40-60% of yoga exercises, so it is important to understand how they work and what the benefits of these postures are.
We are going to look at some of the forward bends in yoga, especially those that are suitable for beginners. This will give you a good foundation in this type of pose.
Explaining Forward Bend Yoga Poses
Forward bend poses in yoga are also known as forward folds. The postures bring the torso close to the lower parts of the body. This is a versatile group of postures that can be performed sitting, supine or standing.
The forward bends in yoga are not about how far you can go with the posture but how deeply you can let go and release.
Benefits Of Forward Bends
Yoga forward bends are one of the most effective ways to stretch the back body. This includes your back muscles, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. In a wide legged pose you are also stretching your inner thigh muscles.
Other than the great stretches that your back body gets there are other benefits to forward bends.
- Increases blood flow through the body
- Relieves anxiety and stress
- Stimulates internal organs to boost metabolism and improve digestion
- Stretches the spine releasing tension in the shoulders, neck and back
- Improves flexibility in the back and legs
As you can see forward bends have a beneficial effect on the muscles, internal organs and mental health.
Let’s take a look at some of the forward bend poses you can do to get some of those benefits.
Forward Bend Poses
Forward bends or forward folds can be done standing, sitting or lying down. The following forward bends can all be done by beginners to yoga.
The child’s pose gently stretches the lower back, thighs and hips. It is a restorative pose which is known to be grounding, calming and relaxing. It is recommended for breaks between active poses. But it can also reduce pain, improve posture and benefit your overall health.
Extended Puppy Pose
Extended puppy pose stretches the spine and opens the heart. It also stretches the lower back and torso while releasing tension in the neck and shoulders. This pose naturally corrects bad posture.
It can calm the nervous system and ease anxiety by slightly inverting the body with the heart over the head so increasing blood flow through the whole body.
The pyramid pose allows you to deeply stretch the backs of your legs. It also improves your balance, circulation and mental functions.
However, if you have recently had an injury to your back, hips or shoulder or suffer from a chronic condition in one of these areas you should avoid doing pyramid pose.
Seated Forward Bend
Seated forward bend is an excellent way to stretch the entirety of your back body. This goes from your heels all the way up to your neck. The posture stimulates the urinary and reproductive systems while calming the nervous system.
You can use a strap if you are not able to reach your feet with your hands.
Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend or forward fold is one of the most practiced in Hatha yoga. It is taught to beginners as it is an important part of the sun salutations. It’s simple to learn but very effective.
Standing forward bend lengthens your spine while simultaneously stretching the back of your legs and your back muscles.
Standing Half Forward Bend
With the standing half forward bend rather than reaching down to your feet you will reach forward creating a bridge with your back. This pose strengthens your lower back, lengthens the spine and builds core body strength.
If you want to work the muscles in your lower back more, reach forward with your arms.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend
The wide angle seated forward bend is a great stretch for your hamstrings as well as your inner thighs. It opens up your hips and the back of your body while stimulating your inner organs. Naturally it also has a beneficial effect on your spine by strengthening it.
To help achieve the pose beginners can sit on a block or folded blanket.
Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend
Wide legged standing forward bend is a pose that lengthens your spinal column while stretching the backs of your legs and your back muscles (Poses like this can be helpful for conditions such as Scoliosis. For more information, read here).
It is a posture that can be modified to suit practitioners with varying degrees of flexibility and fitness. Changing the position of your hands can make it easier or more challenging.
The following forward bends are a bit more difficult and may be suitable for intermediate or advanced practitioners.
Big Toe Pose
The big toe pose is a fantastic way to stretch your hamstrings and the entire back of your body. It can be successfully modified for a variety of abilities including beginner, prenatal, as well as those with weak knees or lower back.
There is also a modification for people who suffer from tight hips. An advanced variation is great for proficient yogis.
Bound Angle Pose
This is a wonderful posture for opening up your hips and groin especially for those with jobs that involve a lot of sitting down. The bound angle pose stretches the inner thighs, groin and hips. It is a great pose for pregnant women and can benefit menopausal women too.
Modifications include sitting against the wall if you are still building up your back strength.
Head To Knee Pose
Head to knee pose gives a deep stretch to the backs of your legs and to your back muscles. The posture also calms your mind and emotions while stimulating your endocrine, urinary, reproductive and nervous systems.
It’s not recommended for chronic or recent back or knee injury or inflammation.
The standing split pose is an intermediate yoga posture. This posture challenges your balance while stretching your legs and hips. It will also strengthen your ankles, knees and thighs. Remember to warm up sufficiently before attempting this pose.
As a mild inversion pose the standing split can provide relief from headaches, fatigue, insomnia and anxiety.
As forward bends make up such a large proportion of yoga poses it is important to be familiar with them and know how to execute them effectively but safely.
Never push yourself beyond your limits, or you risk injuring yourself. You should also take heed of any injury or chronic condition that could be affected by forward bends.
We hope that you have found our guide to forward bends in yoga helpful and informative.
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