Forward Fold Stretch Demonstration
Also Known As:
Standing Pike Stretch, Standing Head-to-Knees Pose, Uttanasana or Standing Forward Bend
In Yoga: It is part of the Sun Salutation sequence, Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) is done often in Vinyasa-style practice. In that sequence, it is performed both near the beginning and at the end. It pays to spend a little extra time in your first few forward bends since your body releases more deeply over a longer hold time.
Standing Forward Bend stretches and lengthens the hamstrings and calves. It is common to have tight hamstrings if you run or play a sport that involves lots of running. It is regarded as a relaxing and stress-relieving pose. Traditionally, it is said to help relieve insomnia.
– From standing, bring your arms down on either side of your body to come into a forward fold from your hips.
– Bring your fingertips in line with the toes. Press your palms flat to the mat if you can. You can use blocks under your hands here if they don’t reach the floor.
– Keep a very slight bend to the knees so that they are not locked. Engage your quadriceps muscles and draw them up. The more you use your quads, the more the hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the thighs) will open.
– Bring your weight a little bit forward into the balls of your feet so that your hips stay over your ankles.
– To come up, inhale and place your hands onto your hips. Press your tailbone down and contract your abdominal muscles as you rise up slowly.
Make sure your fold originates from your pelvis, deepening the hip creases, and not from the back. A fold that comes from the back will result in a curved spine that hangs over your legs.
Modifications and Variations:
You may need to modify this pose if it is uncomfortable or difficult at first.
– Blocks or a chair to support yourself during the stretch are good options. Once you have mastered the usual form, set a new goal and work to master a harder technique.
– The feet can be touching or hip-distance apart, whichever is more comfortable.
– It’s OK to bend the knees slightly, though this does change the effects of the pose. It is better to use blocks under your hands if you are bending your knees a lot so that the pose is still a hamstring stretch.
Up for a Challenge?
Moving back and forth between a Flat Back (Ardha Uttanasana) and a Forward Fold is a nice way to deepen this pose. Use your inhales to come to a long straight spine with your hands on your shins. On your exhales, keep your spine long as you forward fold over your legs. Go back a forth a few times.
If you are very open in the hamstrings, try holding your big toes in a yogi toe lock while bending your elbows out to either side.
You can also take this one step further by bringing your hands underneath your feet with the palms turned up. Your toes will come to your palm creases. Interlace your fingers behind your back while forward bending. Draw your hands up to the ceiling and them overhead. This introduces a shoulder opener and the element of balance.
Julie Lohre in a Forward Fold