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What Are Forward Bends?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Forward bends are types of yoga poses that stretch the hip and thigh muscles. The poses may also help to calm stress, aid in digestion, and soothe symptoms of menopause. There are a number of different styles of forward bends. A person can do a forward bend in a standing position, in a seated position, or lying on the back.

Seated forward bends are done while sitting on the floor or a mat with the legs extended out in front. A person can sit propped on a folded blanket to help him to lean forward further. After getting into the seated position, the person needs to breathe in deeply and bend from the hips so that the torso folds over the legs. The arms should extend toward the feet, and the elbows should stay straight.

Gently stretching the spine and hamstrings, a seated forward bend can be difficult for some. Not everyone will be able to fold all the way forward or reach their feet with their hands when in a seated forward bend. Some people may look as they are sitting straight, even if they are folded as far forward as they can go.

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Standing forward bends are performed with the feet flat on the floor and the legs straight. As with the seated bend, a person needs to bend forward from the hips to move into the pose. The pose stretches a person's hamstrings, calf muscles, and hips. A beginner may need to bend his knees slightly when going into a standing forward bend.

Other forward bends, such as child's pose, are used to relax the body between other yoga poses. In child's pose, the person kneels on the floor and bends forward, over his thighs and knees. Some people find it helpful to extend the arms out in front, flat on the floor, while in the pose. The pose helps to stretch the hips and thighs.

The happy baby is a forward bend that stretches the lower back and inner groin. To get into happy baby, a person lies on her back and lifts her feet and legs into the air. She grabs the feet with her hands, opening the knees slightly wider than the hips and holding the shins at a 90-degree angle to the floor.

Most forward bends are beneficial beyond simply stretching the muscles. Child's pose, seated forward bend, and standing forward bend can usually help relieve stress. Some poses, such as the seated and standing bends, may be useful in treating high blood pressure, headaches, and sinus problems. As the bends massage the abdominal area, they can help with menstrual cramps and indigestion.

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