Standing Forward Bend

Many of us have very tight hamstrings (muscles of the back of the thighs). Standing Forward Bend poses are great to stretch these muscles. When we sit for long hours, our hamstrings are in their shorter state. And when we exercise, these repetitively get contracted. If we neglect to stretch them, they get stiffer.

There are several versions of Standing Forward Bend poses. Each will work on your body slightly differently. The main muscles that will get stretched are the hamstrings and glutes (buttock muscles). But depending on which variation you choose, you can stretch your lower back, upper back and neck.

Half Forward Bend - Ardha Uttanasana

Half Forward Bend

  • Start in Mountain Pose.

  • Inhale, lengthen the spine, reaching up with the crown of your head.

  • As you exhale, tilt your pelvis forward, point your sitting bones toward the wall behind you and gently bring your chest forward and down.

  • Slide your hands down on the front of your thighs to support yourself.

  • Keep your head and neck in line with your spine, unless it creates pain in your neck. In this case, you can simply relax the head down.

  • Posture tip

    In Half Forward Bend, the goal is to hinge at the hips and keep the back flat. Do not round the lower back. If it starts to round, come up until you can flatten your back.

  • Feel the stretch in the glutes and hamstrings.

  • Slide the hands down as far as comfortable and contract your quadriceps to get deeper into the stretch.

Do not forcefully push yourself further than what your body is ready for. Feel a stretch, not pain. Hamstrings can be fragile and you could injure yourself by not respecting your body's limits.

Half Forward Bend



Variation - Hands on the floor

Try releasing the hands down to the floor, without rounding your back. If your back starts rounding, come up and use yoga blocks under each hand to make up for the gap or simply keep your hands on your legs.

Half Forward Bend


Variation - Hands up

To do Half Forward Bend with the hands at shoulder height:

Half Forward Bend

  • Start in Mountain Pose.

  • Inhale both arms up toward the ceiling, lengthening the spine.

  • As you exhale, tilt your pelvis forward, point your sitting bones toward the wall behind you and gently bring your chest forward and down. At the same time, reach out with your arms, keeping them in line with your torso.

  • Keep your head and neck in line with your spine, unless it creates pain in your neck. In this case, you can simply relax the head down.

  • Feel the stretch in the glutes and hamstrings.

  • Press your sitting bones toward the wall behind you and reach forward with your hands.

If you have tight shoulders, it will be difficult to get your hands up at shoulder height. But this is a good practice for your shoulders as it will strengthen them and help to open them up at the same time.

Standing Forward Bend - Uttanasana

To get into the posture, follow the same steps as in the Hands Up variation above. Then relax your hands, head and neck down. Bend the knees if your hamstrings ar tight. Release your hands to the floor or grab your big toes with the first two fingers. Press the elbows out and away from each other. Feel the added stretch on each side of your spine.

Standing Forward Bend


Main Target / Benefits
  • Stretches the hamstrings and glutes.

  • Strengthens the back and shoulders when doing the variation with the hands at shoulder height.
Caution / Recommendation
  • Lower back injury: Take extra care or avoid the variation with the hands up.

  • Hamstring injury: Take extra care or avoid the posture completely until healed.