Hello yogis and yoginis! This week’s fun pose friday is a truly delicious favorite: forward bend, also commonly referred to as forward fold. Known in Sanskrit as uttanasana.  #twothumbsup

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(above: Jarrad Love throwing deuces in his sunny uttanasana)

This pose is not only relaxing, but therapeutic in so many ways. It can be an intense stretch for the back and hamstrings, but pushing too hard into your forward bend is not recommended. Relaxing into it is actually the best method to find your deepest expression of the pose.

To get into forward fold, start in mountain pose (tadasana).  On an inhale, lengthen the back, and as you exhale, hinge at the hips with knees slightly bent. Lower your torso down while maintaining length in the spine. Lift hips up toward the ceiling.

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(above: thanks Jarrad for your beautiful uttanasana – catch Jarrad on Tues/Thurs 6:30pm)

Place your hands on the floor or a block and allow the head and neck to hang down loosely. You can also grab onto opposite elbows and rock gently back and forth if that feels good on your back.

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(above: one of Arlet‘s favorite poses!)

If you’re having trouble balancing, take feet hip-distance apart or wider. Pregnant women should stand with their feet as wide as necessary to feel stable. Only fold forward as deeply as it is comfortable for your stage in pregnancy, and be careful not to compress the belly.

To deepen the pose, bring hands around the back of the legs and hug your torso in towards the legs.  You an also try this shoulder opener version pictured below: clasp the hands, bring the palms together and work the hands closer and closer to the ground.

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When you are ready to return to mountain, don’t roll the spine to come up. Instead, with a slight bend in the knees, maintain length in the back and lift from the core as you rise up.

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(above: check out practitioner & all-around cool chick, Purvi, in her deep forward fold… and also in her “work” cloths. lol) 

Benefits of forward fold include:

• Stretches the hips, hamstrings, and calves

• Strengthens thighs and knees

• Can relieve headache, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression and symptoms of menopause

• Therapeutic for asthma, osteoporosis, and sinusitis

• Can improve digestion

• Relaxes you central nervous system and helps calm the mind

Conditions that aren’t recommended for forward bend include high blood pressure, hamstring injury and eye or inner ear infections. For anyone with a back injury, it’s a good idea to do forward fold with bent knees or try the following modification. This variation on forward fold makes it accessible for anyone with the previously listed conditions.

For more tips, Yoga Journal offers: five steps to master forward bend.

Enjoy yogis! See you on the mat!