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Standing forward bend, aka forward fold, has so many benefits. Practicing this pose stretches the back, stretches the hamstrings, relieve neck and shoulder tension, stimulates the abdominal organs, and brings you back to a calm mind.
This pose can be used at any time after a warm up. If your muscles are not warm yet, massage the backs of your thighs and calf muscles.
~Place your feet hips distance apart and inhale to raise your arms, reach up high and pull your belly button towards your spine. Also squeeze your buttocks to engage your glutes.
~As you exhale, keep your belly and glutes engaged and hinge forward from the hips with a flat back. You will feel a stretch in your hamstrings and maybe your calf muscles.
~Only fold forward until your edge – that sweet spot right before the pose becomes painful. If you are a beginner, try folding forward to a chair – either the back or the seat, depending on your level of flexibility. If you are a little more flexible, try folding forward to a yoga block or a stack of books or tissue boxes, etc. Your edge will be different than anyone else’s and will change as you progress with this pose.
~When you get to your edge, you can let your back, shoulders, neck and head relax. Slowly nod your head yes, and shake your head no, allowing your neck to relax.
~Stay here and breathe for up to 1 minute.
~When this feels complete, slowly bring your hands up to your thighs and come up halfway. Let everything come back into balance before rounding your back and rolling up to standing.
If your hamstrings are super tight (like mine!) it may feel better bending your knees, like the picture below. You’ll find that the stretch becomes more noticeable in your back.
As you stay in the pose and breathe, try gently straightening your legs – both or just one at a time – in order to begin increasing your level of flexibility.
NOTE: If you have vertigo, please be extra careful practicing this pose. Begin by just folding over to a chair and only hold for 1-2 breaths. If this pose makes you dizzy, kneel down to regain your center. Make your way to standing slowly and mindfully.