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HEALTH Yoga pose of the week: Forward bend

Nurturing
Stretch the hamstrings


Yoga
Lee Kennedy

This wide-legged standing forward bend (prasarita padottanasana) is an alternative pose for those who struggle with the headstand (sirsasana). As this pose is not only a standing forward bend but also an inversion, it has similar benefits, which include calming and relaxing the mind.

Forward bend
  • Stand with your hands on your waist. Inhale, and step your legs about four feet apart.
  • Keep your feet parallel and rooted into the mat, lifting the arches of your feet.
  • Activate your quadriceps muscles, pulling them up towards the pelvis and back. (This work in the upper front legs raises your kneecaps, safeguarding them in the pose.)
  • Keeping your legs and feet activated, exhale and extend the trunk forward from the hips, (not from the waist) stretching the spine.
  • Release the hands and place the finger tips on the floor, shoulder-width apart, in line with the legs (if the hands don’t reach the floor, a prop will be needed to support both your hands and, later on, your head).
  • Inhale, extending the spine further.
Stage 1
  • Lift the chest and sternum
  • Lengthen the neck, lift the head and look up.

Stage 2
  • Keeping the chest open, exhale, bend the elbows, take the head to the floor, bringing the crown to rest on the floor.
  • Let your weight be held by the feet and palms of the hands, not on the head.

You can put a block or bolster underneath your head if it doesn’t reach the floor easily. Over time, as you progress in the pose, work with lower props until your head eventually reaches the floor without needing a higher support.
This standing forward bend is thought to help lower blood pressure, and aid digestion by calming the stomach area. It is a great spine strengthener, a good stretch for the hamstrings and knee joints, it also helps to open up the hips. Practicing regularly can help tone up the abdominal area and the legs.

Lee Kennedy qualified with The BKS Iyengar Yoga Association UK, the YTTC and Ana Forrest of Forrest Yoga. She specialises in pregnancy-related yoga and also studied with Janet Balaskas, founder of the Active Birth Foundation, UK. Visit Yogadara.com or call 0863906343 for more information.