THE ASANAS Standing
Forward Fold oers an
opportunity to improve exibility.
Transitioning in and out of the pose, such as in Sun
salutations, will help prepare you for common functional
movements you do throughout the day. This pose can be
adapted for all abilities by going into the fold less deeply.
THE BIG
PICTURE
The back of your whole body is stretching—including
your calf muscles, thighs, buttocks, and back muscles. At the
front of your body—especially in your legs—your muscles are
working to stabilize you in the deep bend.
FORWARD FOLD
Uttanasana
ALIGNMENT
Your feet are at hip distance,
creating a stable base. If you
have no spinal problems or
back pain, relax your neck
muscles and release your
head to gravity.
Thighs
Your gluteus maximus,
medius, and minimus,
hamstrings, and adductor
magnus stretch strongly in
this pose while your hip
exors engage. Your
quadriceps extend the
knees and stabilize your
base of support.
Neck and torso
All of your spinal extensors
and your latissimus dorsi
stretch when you release
your upper body to gravity.
Spine flexes
slightly
Release head
Anterior
pelvic tilt
Hips flexed
Knees soft,
not locked
Feet hip-
distance
apart
Biceps femoris
Semitendinosus
Gluteus maximus
Rectus femoris
Vastus lateralis
Tensor fasciae latae
Psoas major
Iliacus
Gluteus medius
Splenius muscles
Spinal extensors
Latissimus dorsi
Spine
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91
Upper and lower arms
If you pull yourself gently toward your
legs, your brachialis, biceps brachii,
and brachioradialis ex your elbows
while the serratus anterior muscles
engage to stabilize, protract, and
upwardly rotate your scapulae.
Lower legs
Your ankle dorsiexors
engage, stabilizing your feet and
ankles further into dorsiexion,
as your weight is brought
forward. You might also feel a
stretch in your calf muscles.
Rest your
hands at
shin height
Crown of
head reaches
forward
Keep a
long spine
VARIATION
If you have back pain you may
need to keep your spine neutral.
Place your hands on your shins—
or two blocks—and reach the
crown of your head forward.
Feel free to bend your knees.
Semitendinosus
Splenius muscles
Tibialis anterior
Gastrocnemius
Extensor digitorum longus
Soleus
Ankle
Serratus anterior
Triceps brachii
Brachialis
Biceps brachii
Brachioradialis
Elbow
Shoulder
KEY
Joints
Muscles
Engaging
Engaging while
stretching
Stretching
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92
FORWARD FOLD
Uttanasana
CLOSER LOOK
Forward Fold delivers a deep spinal stretch,
which can help to improve back health and
reduce back pain. However, care should be
taken to reduce the lumbar load for those
with intervertebral disk issues.
Lumbar load
The load on the lumbar spine in a standing
Forward Fold is signicant. The lower back is
particularly vulnerable during the transition in
and out of the pose. If you have any back
pain, arthritis, disk issues, osteopenia, or
osteoporosis, try keeping your spine neutral
and transition in and out of the pose with
bent knees and an engaged core.
Lumbar
region
of spine
Latissimus
dorsi stretches
Pelvis tilts
anteriorly
and hips flex
Shoulder blades
protract and
upwardly rotate
Coming up too
quickly can cause
dizziness as your
blood redistributes
Spinal extensors
stretch, allowing
upper body to
release fully
Hands can
grasp ankles
if comfortable
Vertebra
Anulus fibrosus
(doughnut)
Herniated disk
Intervertebral disks are like jelly doughnuts. In a
“slipped” or herniated disk, the “jam” partially leaks out
of the tougher brocartilage “dough.Since most
herniations occur posterior-laterally due to spinal
exion, if you currently have a disk issue, move slowly
or avoid exion by not going into the pose as deeply.
Herniation
Spinal
nerve
Nucleus
pulposus (jelly)
Spinal
cord
ANTERIOR VIEW
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93
THE ASANAS
Standing
Attachments
Feeling the pull
Feel the pull in the belly of the muscle, not the
attachments. Muscle tissue has more elasticity
to stretch, and blood ow to heal, than the
connective tissue of joint structures. If you feel
a sharp pull near the attachments, bend your
knees, or don’t go as deeply into the pose.
Verterbral bodies
move and tilt
forward
Disks naturally
shift backward
Spinal disks
When your spine exes, your resilient
intervertebral disks naturally push posteriorly.
Spinal nerves thread between your vertebrae
and are vulnerable to compression, such as
from disk herniation. You would likely know if
your nerves were being pinched because of
numbness, tingling, or shooting pain.
Adductor magnus
stretches, but may
engage a little as well
Triceps brachii
may engage to
synergize with
your biceps
brachii
Gluteus maximus
stretches strongly
Gastrocnemius
particularly
stretches with the
knees extended
Hamstrings stretch
Belly of
hamstrings
POSTERIOR VIEW
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