Why I love forward bends
Continuing on the topic of postures I love, we move onto the forward bend. During my first week of living with a sprained ankle, seated forward bends – mainly paschimottanasana was a posture I threw myself into and embraced as it was pretty much one of the few asanas I could still do to my full ability. And now with my ankle on the mend, I’m back to enjoying standing forward bends too.
Although forward bends may seem rather simple and boring compared to other asanas there are lots of variations and modifications you can play around with.
So let’s firstly begin with the benefits of forwards bends. All forward bends are a great way to stretch out the spine. During a forward bend, gentle pressure can also be felt on the abdomen. Bending forward gently massages the abdominal organs and works to improve digestion. Standing forward bends have the additional benefit of strengthening the thighs and knees, while seated forward bends are great for the shoulders and hammies.
Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
Begin in tadasana with the feet together and hands just outside the hips. Raise your hands above your head and then bend from the waist and slowly bring your hands forward. Hold the posture for a moment when your upper body and arms are parallel with the ground. Then continue to bring the hands down, ideally to the floor. Make that conscious effort to lengthen and extend the spine. It is vital that the spine remains straight.
From this position you can try placing the palms of your hands underneath your feet. You can also try walking the palms on the hands as far back as you can on the mat (while keeping the back straight) with the wrists facing the front. You can also attempt a forward bend with some distance between both legs. When in the final position grab hold of the big toes and bring the head in between the legs.
Begin in dandasana, sitting on the floor with the feet together. Bend the left knee and bring the leg foot so the sole is touching the inside of the upper right thigh. Lift the arms up and bend forward from the waist. Attempt to bring the hands as close to the foot as possible. Remember to work with your breath. On an inhale gently lift your chest and on an exhale bring the body closer to the legs.
For a stronger version, bring the left foot on top of the right thigh. Feed your left hand around your back and ideally grab hold of the toes of the left foot. Then raise the right hand up and bend forward.
You can also attempt parivrtta janu sirsasana. Again bring the left foot so the sole touches the inside of the upper right thigh. Bring the right forearm so it rests on the floor, just next to the right leg. Raise the left arm up and sweep the arm over the head. Try to go as deep as you can into the posture. Ideally try to bring the left hand so it touches the right toes.
There are so many different types of forward bends with their own modifications and variations and I’ve only really mentioned a select few here. I guess I will have to save the others for another day!