Updated: Jan 16, 2022
Are you curious to improve your forward fold in yoga? Or maybe you want to learn a forward fold sequence of yoga poses to improve your flexibility with variations suitable for beginners.
In this blog we’ll explore five yoga poses that help you understand which muscles you need to get the most out of your forward bends. As well as modifications you can try to approach the poses in a way that best suits your body.
Want to jump straight into a guided practice? Practice along with my free YouTube video of five yoga poses to improve your seated forward bend.
A Sequence of Five Poses for Your Forward Bends in Yoga
The cues and alignment tips in the following five yoga poses should be helpful when you’re working on your forward fold form to get the most benefits.
1. Low Lunge & Half splits Pose | Anjaneyasana & Ardha Hanumanasana
Alternating dynamically between the low lunge (anjaneyasana) and the half splits pose (ardha hanumanasana) is a great way to warm up the body for improving your flexibility in the forward fold pose.
Focus on sinking your back hip flexor forward in the low lunge pose to work on lengthening and stretching your hip flexors. By releasing tension from your hip flexors you’ll have more space to be able fold forward in a seated forward bend pose.
When you’re in the half splits pose allow as best as you can the back of your hamstrings to lengthen. Another important muscle that is required to move more deeply (and comfortably) into your seated forward bend stretch.
Do watch out if your hamstrings are feeling discomfort from overstretching. If this is the case experiment with bending your knee to ease out of the stretch.
After moving in and out of the low lunge and half splits a few times you can explore pausing in both poses for a few slow breaths.
2. Standing Forward Fold | Uttanasana
The standing forward fold (uttanasana) is a very similar posture to the seated forward fold. However, when standing there’s more space for the hips to move back and ease a little out of the stretch on the hamstrings.
Allow your knees to be a little bent so that your belly comes closer to your thighs. This will help release any tension and pain you might experience in your back. If you’re suffering from back pain try out these seven yoga poses to relieve back pain.
Experiment with keeping your spine long, dropping your head down to relax your neck, and leaning forward towards your toes. If it feels comfortable in your hamstrings you could try to lengthen the legs a bit more and lift your hips more up.
See if you can ease your body into the pose by taking smooth and steady breaths. You could stay in the pose anywhere between 5 and 10 breaths.
3. Wide Bound Angle Pose | Baddha Konasana Variation
The wide bound angle pose (baddha konasana) is a great preparation for the seated forward fold. By having the heels a little away from your hips you’ll give yourself space to fold a little forward.
In this pose you work on actively opening your outer hips and inner thighs. Having the legs wider gives you space to open up gradually. Which will give you more space to tilt the hips forward in the seated forward fold.
Allow your spine to keep lengthening as you breathe in and then fold a little further from your hips as you breathe out.
Take your time for your body to open up in this posture. Allow your face to relax, head to be heavy and focus your mind on watching your breath.
4. Head to Knee Forward Bend | Janu Sirsasana
The head to knee forward bend pose (janu sirsasana) is useful to practice right before the seated forward bend stretch. It allows you to do fold forward over one leg at a time with more flexibility to move in your hips. As well as integrate many of the technique principles you worked on in the previous three postures.
Work on flexing the foot of your outstretched leg so that the muscles in your quadriceps are activated. This will help release some tension on the stretching of your hamstring.
Lengthen through your spine when you inhale and then fold as far as feels comfortable from your hip flexors on your exhale. Pause for a few regular and deep breaths before changing sides.
5. Seated Forward Fold | Paschimottanasana
By practicing the seated forward fold it will help improve your seated forward fold! Nothing after all can help you learn something better than practicing the thing itself.
Start by sitting with lengthening and activating both of your legs. If you have particularly tight hamstrings or a tension in your lower back you could try bringing the legs about hip distance apart and slightly bending your knees.
Use your inhale to lengthen through your upper body and then fold forward from your hip flexors on your exhale. You can judge for yourself how far feels comfortable to fold forward.
Allow your body to slowly ease into the pose over 5 – 10 breaths. Using your breath to support your body in the pose.
Tips for practicing the forward fold for beginners
When working on improving your flexibility it’s most effective to practice little and often. If you try this short sequence of five poses three times a week, you’ll notice more improvements than if you practice only once a week. If you do other sports you could try practicing this sequence after your run, cycle or gym session.
Accept where your body is and don’t push yourself further than feels comfortable. Find a place where you can breathe comfortably and relax into the poses. Particularly be careful of overstretching your hamstrings since they can be quite vulnerable in these deeper forward bends.
Forward fold variations can be calming on your mind. Focus on turning your attention inwards as you fold your body away from external stimuli. Try to slow down and lengthen equally your inhale and exhale. Relaxing your face, head and shoulders. Using these forward folds as a way to release tension and stress.
Learn more about how our mindset influences our practice.
Good luck and happy practicing!
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