Eight Forward Folds for all Practice Levels

A typical yoga class is chock-full of forward folding poses, and for good reason…forward folds rock. In fact, there are three forward folds in your typical Sun Salutation alone! (Two Standing Forward Folds and one Downward Facing Dog in Surya Namaskara A.)

Forward folds have many benefits, such as stretching the back and lengthening the hamstrings. Forward folds can be a great counter pose to any back-bending postures.

You can also use the forward folds to stretch and activate Uddiyana Bandha, which is an abdominal lock.

These poses have even more positive effects. Forward folds have a calming effect on the nervous system. The Drishti often lies down and allows for internal gaze.

The forward fold gives you the opportunity to renew your gratitude for all that is good in your life. In a forward fold, I visualize all my worries and rubbish from the day flowing down my spine to the floor.

Seated Forward Fold

Get in it: Inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale to engage your core. Fold forward with your legs over your top.

Relax your upper back by breathing here.

Extended Child Pose

Let’s get into it! On all fours, place your hips over your heels. Your knees can be close together or apart. Then, walk your arms long.

Press your hands into it to feel the gentle stretch across your lower back.

Half Split

Straighten your front leg: Starting from a low lunge position, press your hips into alignment over your knee, creating a 90-degree angled knee on your back leg. Exhale, lengthen your spine, and fold forward with your heart.

Intense Side Stretch

Let’s get started: From Warriors I, hop the back foot to a comfortable, slightly shorter stance. As you bend over your front leg, twist your torso slightly toward it.

Let your worries and trash from the day roll down your back and onto the floor. Feel grateful for all the positive things in your life and let the negative thoughts go.

Janu Sirsasana

Get in it: From the Staff Pose, draw one foot and place it along your straight leg, avoiding pressing directly into your knee. Move up to your groin. As you bend over your straight leg, twist your torso slightly toward it.

Try it out: Flex the foot of the straight leg by engaging the quadriceps. This will allow the opposing muscle, the hamstring, to relax and stretch.

Big Toe Pose

Let’s get into it: Wrap your peace fingers around the big toes from a forward folding position. Bring your chest up to your legs and bend your knees generously to bring your hands together with your feet.

Use your quads for a deeper stretch of your hamstrings. Allow your head to dangle and release any tension in your neck.

Standing Split

Start it: Starting from a high lunge, frame the front foot with your arms. As your back leg starts to float, begin to shift your weight to your front leg. As you fold your body, move your weight forward.

Get into it. Use core strength and leg power to lift the back leg higher. Energy will reach from foot to foot.


Start it: Starting from the Staff Pose, bring your right foot in and plant it near your hips. Flex your left leg, engaging it from the toes up. Bring your right hand on the inside of the right thigh. Rotate your arm so that the palm faces the right and the thumb points down to the ground.

Grab your right shin and wrap your arm around it. Bend your arm so that your elbow is in line with your knee. Reach towards your glutes, thigh, or hip on the right. Your left arm will touch your right hand by reaching behind your back.

Use your senses: Engage Uddiyana Bandha and lengthen your body as if you were lifting your hips. You can use your core strength to fold forward and hinge your hips. As Marichi did, bow down and recognize the light within you.

Caution / Warnings

Our ego often drives us to bend and bind in half or push too hard. Let it go. Slowly progress through these poses and pause when you reach your limit. There are no hamstrings to be pulled up here!

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