8 Forward Folds for All Practice Levels



CHECK THIS OUT TOO Top 5 Benefits of Forward Folds
A typical yoga class is chock-full of forward folding poses, and for good reason…forward folds rock.In fact, there are three forward folds in your typical Sun Salutation alone! (Two Standing Forward Folds and one Downward Facing Dog in Surya Namaskara A.)

There are many external benefits to forward folds, including that they lengthen the hamstrings and stretch the back. If your practice has any back-bending poses, forward folds are a delicious counter pose.

In addition to stretching, in many forward folds, there are opportunities to activate Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock) and find another layer to your expression of the pose.

There are even more feel-good effects to these poses. Internal benefits include that forward folds calm the nervous system, which creates a relaxing effect. Also, the Drishti is often down, providing an opportunity for internal gazing.

Forward folds provide an opportunity to feel renewed with gratitude for the positivity in your life. When I’m in a forward fold, I like to visualize my worries and junk from the day rolling down my spine and pouring onto the floor – leaving that negativity in a pool on the floor outside of my body.

There are forward folds suitable for every yogi at every practice level. Let’s check some of these bad boys out…

1. Seated Forward Fold

Seated-Forward-Bend

Level: Beginner

Get into it: From Staff Pose, inhale and lengthen your spine, exhale and engage your core as you lead with your heart, folding forward over the top of your legs.

Feel into it: Breathe here, relaxing any tension you are holding in your upper back and feel the stretch deepening into your hamstrings.

2. Extended Child’s Pose

5 Foundational Poses in Power Yoga - child's pose 1

Level: Beginner

Get into it: From all fours, press your hips back over your heels (knees can be together or wide), and walk your arms out long

Feel into it: Actively press through your hands to feel a gentle stretch along your lower back and across your hips

3. Half Split

Credit: Julia Lee

Credit: Julia Lee

Level: Beginner

Get into it: From a Low Lunge, straighten your front leg, pressing your hips back into alignment right over top of your knee (creating a 90-degree angle on the knee of the back leg). Inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale and engage your core as you lead with your heart, folding forward over the top of your extended leg.

Feel into it: Breathe here, relaxing any tension you are holding in your upper back and feel the stretch deepening into your hamstrings.

4. Intense Side Stretch

Credit / Yogi: Odette Hughes

Credit / Yogi: Odette Hughes

Level: Intermediate

Get into it: From Warrior I,  hop your back foot into a slightly shorter, comfortable stance. Slightly twist your torso toward your front leg, and engage your core as you bow down over that leg.

Feel into it: Allow your worries and junk from the day to roll down your spine and pour onto the floor. Leave the negativity outside of your body, and feel renewed with gratitude for the positivity in your life.

5. Janu Sirsasana

janu sirsasana

Level: Intermediate

Get into it: From Staff Pose, draw in one foot and place it wherever it might meet along your straight leg (avoiding directly pressing into the knee), eventually moving up towards your groin. Slightly twist your torso toward your straight leg, and engage your core as you bow down over that leg.

Feel into it: Keep flexing through the heel of your straight leg, engaging the quad of that leg to allow the countering muscle, the hamstring, to relax and stretch.

6. Big Toe Pose

Credit: Yoga-practice.org

Credit: Yoga-practice.org

Level: Intermediate

Get into it: From a forward fold, wrap your peace fingers around your big toes. Take a generous bend in the knees to allow your hands to meet the feet, and bring your chest to your legs.

Feel into it: Engage your quads to deepen the stretch into your hamstrings. Let go of any tension you are holding in your neck, and let your head dangle.

7. Standing Split

Yoga-Pose-of-the-Week-standing-splits

Level: Advanced

Get into it: From a High Lunge, frame your front foot with your hands. Begin to shift your weight into your front leg, as your back leg begins to float. Shift your weight further forward as you continue to fold, attempting to stack your hips over your shoulders.

Feel into it: Use your core strength and leg strength to lift your back leg up higher – energy reaching from foot to foot.

8. Marichyasana

marichyasana

Level: Advanced

Get into it: From Staff pose, draw in your right foot and plant it as close to your hips as you can. Flex your left foot, engaging the entire extended leg. Bring your right arm on the inside of your right thigh, rotating your arm inwards so that your palm is also facing to the right and your thumb is pointing down to the floor.

Reach forward and around your right shin, bending your arm to hook your elbow crease in front of your knee and get your shin cozy with your armpit. Reach back towards your right thigh, hip, or glutes. Left arm will reach behind your back and make contact with your right hand.

Feel into it: Engage Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock) and lengthen your torso, feeling as if you are lifting up and out of your hips. Use your engaged core strength to hinge from your hips and fold forward. Bowing down, recognize the ray of light that shines within you, as Marichi was.

Caution / Warnings

Our egos often drive us to bind and bend in half, to push too far. Let that go. Move slowly as you progress through the steps of these poses, pausing when you meet your limits. No pulled hamstrings up in here!

NEXT UP 5 Ways To Get The Most From Your Forward Fold
Recognize and respect your body’s limitations—use these poses as a guide to help find your expression of a forward fold. Happy practicing!

KC Whitsett
KC Whitsett

Teacher. Learner. Passionate about creating healthy opportunities for all.


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