The standing forward fold can feel great on the hamstrings, calves, hips, and lower back. The inverted nature of the pose also allows the head to be below the heart which has benefits of its own. If you have ever taken a yoga class, this may have been one of the first poses you learned. It may seem relatively simple, but the benefits go well beyond the physical.
Anytime we can teach you how to do a pose using your own bodyweight, we love to do it. That is because they are so simple to do anywhere - no matter if you are traveling, at work, on vacation, or just getting out of bed. In fact, we especially recommend doing this one first thing in the morning after a poor night of sleep as it can help work out any kinks in your body that may have arisen from a night of tossing and turning.
While this stretch is most definitely one of the simpler ones in our database, that does not mean that you should not pay close attention to how you approach and execute it. Keep reading if you want to learn how to properly do this movement. We will also discuss the benefits of doing forward folds daily. Lastly, we will give you modifications if you are not quite ready to go all the way with this movement yet.
What is the Standing Forward Fold?
In the most simplistic way, the standing forward fold looks like you are just touching your toes. And while this is definitely one point of the movement, there is so much more that happens in this stretch other than just reaching your hands towards your toes. Let’s walk through it all.
Starting from a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, inhale through your nose and raise both arms out, up and overhead. Enjoy this big stretch from head to toe as you spread your fingers and reach up towards the sky.
As you exhale out through your mouth, reach the arms in front of you and hinge from the hips diving for your toes. Avoid locking out your knees all the way. Fold your torso over your legs as the top of your head reaches towards the floor. If you can reach your hands all the way to the floor, that’s great. But that is truly not the end goal. The end goal is to receive the deepest stretch for you and your body. if you can’t touch the floor, go until you feel a nice, satisfying stretch in the back body.
Once you have found your proper range of motion, hold here for your desired amount of time. We recommend taking at least five deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, push through your feet and come back to the starting position the way you came. As you raise your torso, bring your arms out, up, and towards the sky. Take one last stretch with your arms extended overhead and then drop them back down and come into standing position. Feel free to do this pose as many times throughout the day as you need.
Benefits of the Standing Forward Fold
Obviously, this is a great stretch for the muscles in the back part of your body. That means the muscles in your lower back, your hamstrings, and your calf muscles all get some love and attention with the forward fold. But this also might feel really good on your spine as you allow gravity to help decompress you. It creates space between your vertebrae. If you workout a lot or have tight muscles, this will be a beneficial stretch for you.
Outside of stretching your physical body, this pose is also a good one to use when you are feeling stressed or anxious. Forward folds have long been used by people to bring a sense of relief and calm as it helps regulate the central nervous system.
Standing Forward Fold Modifications
If the standing forward fold, as it is described above, does not feel accessible to you there are ways to modify it to bring it to your level. The first modification utilizes yoga blocks. If you don’t have yoga blocks, you can use a step stool, a stack of books, or any other similarly sized item. Instead of reaching your hands to the floor, you will rest your hands on your tool of choice. This can provide a bit of stability and allow you to hold the pose longer if needed.
Another modification would be to grasp opposite elbows as your torso is folded over your legs. This is commonly called the ragdoll pose and is a great forward fold variation for beginners or advanced practitioners alike.
You can also take your feet wide for a wide-leg variation of standing forward fold. This positioning may help you feel more stable as you build up the confidence in the forward fold position.
Starting from a standing position, inhale both arms out, up and overhead. As you exhale reach the arms in front of you and hinge from the hips diving for your toes.