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Standing forward bend yoga pose - young woman performing the pose

Standing Forward Bend | Step-by-Step Instructions

Beginner or advanced, everyone benefits from the Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). It relieves back pressure, stretches your hamstrings, and improves posture. 

In fact, you may instinctively do this pose when your backs a little tight from sitting for too long. But while it may seem intuitive, it takes time to fully master the Standing Forward Bend and we’re going to show you how! 

Take a breath and let’s get started...

woman in all white performing the standing forward bend pose

How to do the standing forward bend

Step 1: Start in Mountain Pose with your feet together and your hands on your hips. 

Step 2: Take a deep breath in and, on the exhale, hinge at the hips and bring your chest down toward your legs. You’re “folding” your body in half so keep your legs as straight as possible and your spine elongated. 

Step 3: Gently grab the back of your legs, ankles, or toes to increase the stretch. If you have trouble with your forward bend, it can help to use a belt or yoga strap as something to hold onto.

Step 4: Engage your core, gently tighten your quads and keep your back straight. 

Step 5: Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. You can rock your hips or interlock your arms while you’re in the bent position if you feel like it. Do whatever feels comfortable but make sure you’re keeping your spine and neck elongated the whole time. 

Step 6: To come out of the pose, bring your hands back to your hips. Come up to a 90-degree angle, pause, and then return to an upright standing position. 

Pro tips: 

  • Avoid rounding your back and rolling your shoulders forward.
  • Avoid locking your knees to tight.

Modifications

Forward bend or “Forward Fold” is a beginner’s position but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you have trouble with the pose there are a few things you can do. 

If you find that it’s difficult to straighten your legs, gently work on improving flexibility in your hamstrings over time. Most of us work at desks which can leave your hamstrings contracted and tight. Over time they’ll loosen up and you’ll be able to fully extend your legs with practice. 

You may also have trouble going down far enough to grab behind your knees or ankles. Again, this is from tight hamstrings and lower back muscles. Simply grab a belt or yoga strap, step on it and use the exposed ends as handles to grab onto. You can use this to pull yourself deeper into the pose. 

A word of caution though. Avoid pulling yourself down so far that you’re rounding your back or losing elongation in your neck. Instead, work the pose slowly over time until you can perform it properly. 

One of the perks of the Forward Bend is that you can do it almost anywhere and anytime you have a moment. Whenever you have two minutes, stand up from your desk, do the pose and get back to work. It can do wonders for relieving minor aches and pains as well as stiffness from sitting for too long. 

Benefits of standing forward bend

Standing Forward Bend is an inversion pose that helps with many things. For one, it increases blood flow to your brain which can help you think more clearly. It also undoes the damage caused by sitting for so long. It improves hamstring flexibility, relieves tension in your back and hips, and corrects posture. 

Because it increases blood flow to the brain, it may also help relieve headaches and mild depression. Some report that the pose also reduces anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

Other benefits include: 

  • Detoxification and improved digestion
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep 
  • Calms and relieves stress

Muscles Stretched: 

The Forward Bends stretch almost all of your posterior muscles. The primary ones include your hamstrings, calves, hips, glutes, and the muscles along your spine and neck. You may also feel a stretch in your shoulders if you allow your arms to hang. 

Risks and contradictions 

It goes without saying that, if you suffer from vertigo, light headedness, or any other issue that may result in loss of balance or fainting, avoid the Standing Forward Bend. 

Additionally, this pose takes time to master. It can even take several years before you’re able to reach the full version of the pose. With that said, avoid pushing yourself too hard. Take things slow and, if you need to, keep your knees bent until you’re flexible enough to straighten them without rounding your lower back.

Related follow-up poses

Pose information 

  • Name: Uttanasana
  • Difficulty: Beginner

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