Standing Forward Fold
The Standing Forward Fold (sometimes called a forward bend - it’s the same thing) stretches your hamstrings, calf muscles, the back of your hips and your spine, in particular the lower back bones. You’ll come into this pose during your sun salutations firstly from Extended Mountain Pose (Urdhva Hastasana) and then as you exit after your Half Lift (Urdhva Uttanasana) and also on its own. Along with Tadasana, this pose features in every class in one form or another.
Generally speaking, forward folds have a calming effect on the body.
How to get into the pose:
Stand with both feet facing 12 o’clock hip width apart, or feet together. Feet hip width apart is a more stable foundation. Spread your toes out on the mat. Press through each corner of each foot. Create a solid foundation through your feet.
Bring your hands to your hips.
Exhale and hinge forward from your hips. All forward folds involve a forward tilt of the pelvis. Remember that your fold always comes from the hips and not the waist.
Bring your upper body down over the thighs. The crown of your head should lengthen towards the mat and your seat bones should point upwards. You are looking to create length through the spine. Release your neck.
Activate your quadriceps (thigh muscles).
Straighten your legs as best as you can but always keep your knees soft. Do not lock out the knee joints. If you have hypermobility in your knee joints you should always practice with a micro bend into your knees.
Rest your hands on the floor, or on to blocks. Elbows draw backwards.
Keep the weight distribution even across the whole of your foot. Try not to put all the weight into your heels.
Take deep breaths.
As you exhale, draw your abdominal muscles in and up (engage uddiyana bandha).
Exit the pose by drawing your hands to the hips on an exhale and then come up on an inhale, keeping the spine long. Do not round the spine as you come up.
Remember to create the balance between effort and ease in your pose.
How long to stay in the pose:
Five to ten breaths if practiced in isolation. As part of a sun salutation you will take one breath to get into the pose (an exhale) before moving to the next pose. The yin version of this pose (Dangle) is held for longer.
Tip of the nose
The space between the heels
Modifications you can take to make this pose more accessible:
If feet together does not feel like a stable foundation in your body, widen your feet to create a solid pose.
Bend the knees as much as you need to if there is pressure in the lower back or tightness in the hamstrings.
You can take the Ragdoll variation by holding the opposite elbow with the opposite hand.
Contraindications / Cautions
Be very cautious with this pose if you have problems with your lower back and always do this pose with a good bend into the knees.
Be cautious if you have sciatica
If you have disc problems, it may be wise to practice a Half Lift instead. Talk to your teacher.