Forward bending poses are a staple of any yoga class. They allow for a nice, lengthening stretch throughout the entire spine, shoulders, and pelvis and are therefore often used within a yoga class to realign the spine after twisting and asymmetric poses. Forward bends also tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles. The compression of the abdominal and digestive organs that occurs has a detoxifying effect that can improve and stimulate digestion. Additionally, forward bends are great for stretching and lengthening the hamstrings, calves, and hips making them especially beneficial for athletes such as runners and cyclists.
You may have noticed that many yoga classes end with forward bends. This is due to the calming effects that forward bending postures have on the mind and body, which helps prepare you for savasana. When you fold forward, you are turning inward physically, mentally and emotionally, resulting in greater introspection and a sense of peace. These poses are therefore also helpful for reducing anxiety and stress.
Use the following gentle forward bend anytime you have a sore back, tight hamstrings, or just need a few moments to relax and de-stress. Stand with your feet wide (several feet apart), taking care not to lock your knees. Place your hands on your hips and with a long spine, inhale and roll your shoulder blades onto your back. On your next exhale, fold forward. Allow your hands to rest on the ground, a block, or a chair. Do not let your hands dangle in the air. By placing them on something solid, the pose becomes more grounding and stable and therefore more relaxing. Again ensure that you are not locking your knees. Enjoy a few deep breaths. Then inhale, lengthen your spine, and bring your hands to your hips. Roll your shoulder blades onto your back and exhale fully. On your next inhale, press down into your feet to come up to standing. Walk your feet together. Please note that forward bends are not recommended for anyone with herniated or bulging discs, sciatica, or sacroiliac pain.