If you’re looking for stretches you can do anywhere and anytime, there’s nothing better than the forward bend. Yes, we all know that we should follow a regular stretching routine before and after a workout, and even on rest days if we really want to improve our flexibility. But sometimes you really only need one stretch to turn to when you want to relax and relieve tension during a busy day. The forward fold may be for you.
The forward fold, also called the forward fold or tucked-in stretch, is one of the best and easiest stretches for improving flexibility. It targets the back of the body and also relieves tension in the back and neck. And you can do it right next to your desk (no need to sit on the floor). It doesn’t get much easier than this.
What is the front fold?
The forward bend is a stretch where you essentially bend your upper body over your legs. This is actually a standard yoga pose, or asana – « forward bend » in Sanskrit is Uttanasana – which is included in a well-known series of poses called sun salutation. If you’ve ever taken a Vinyasa-style yoga class, you’ve probably done a lot of forward bends.
The forward bend can be done standing or sitting. « When you’re seated, you eliminate input from the legs, so it’s an easier form or modification of a standing forward bend, » says yoga instructor Bethany Lyons, owner and CEO of Lyon’s Den Power Yoga and Lyon Den Digital, says SELF.
The benefits of the forward fold
In yoga, forward bends are used to help ground you and provide a solid foundation for your feet and legs, Lyons says. « They soothe the nervous system, they encourage some introspection (introspection and inquiry), and they can be used as a warm-up and also as a cool-down after more vigorous asanas. »
« On a physical level, this pose stretches the hamstrings, hips, and calves, » Lyons says. You will also feel a slight release in your neck and back. “A standing forward bend improves flexibility in the posterior. [back] side of the body, which is so important for the weather that we all tend to sit still.
It can also help improve your balance and proprioception, or your body’s ability to recognize and position itself in space. « Changing visual cues and being upside down, along with changing your weight distribution, will improve proprioception of the muscles around lower extremity joints, » Lyons says.
Who shouldn’t do the forward fold?
The forward bend is generally a safe and gentle stretch, but the bend can aggravate a back injury or spinal disc problem, Lyons says. More spine-friendly modifications include bending the knees or going seated.
Also, placing your head below your heart, which occurs in a forward fold, may not be safe for people with high blood pressure. If you have any concerns about the safety of this pose for you, talk to your doctor or physical therapist before trying it.
How to add the forward fold to your routine
Lyons recommends bending forward any time of the week when you need a quick reset. In general, it’s a good idea to take standing and walking breaks throughout the day. When you do, add a forward fold. “Start with bent knees and gradually begin to straighten the legs as far as they allow. Your hands can be on the floor for support or clasped behind your back,” Lyons explains.