I’ve been working a lot lately on increasing flexibility in my hamstrings. There are lots of reasons for this, but I’ll be honest — the biggest reason is because I want to be able to press up into handstand one day!
Granted, there are many things that need to happen in addition to flexible hammies before I’ll be able to press up to a handstand. I am SO not there yet! But once I develop the strength I need, I don’t want inflexible hamstrings to stop me. So I work on hamstring flexibility daily.
Standing forward bend seems so simple. But I really do find it to be the best stretch for a little relaxing and a lot of lengthening.
Steps to Master Your Standing Forward Bend:
- Stand up straight, feet together, arms at your side.
- Inhale, and bring your arms above your head.
- Exhale, bend your knees slightly, and bend at your hips, reaching your torso toward your legs. If your torso doesn’t reach your legs like mine does, don’t worry! Go as far as your body can comfortably go – you don’t want to push yourself too hard and cause an injury. (I’ve got to tell you, the injuries I’ve sustained have usually been from pushing my stretches too far when my body wasn’t ready. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t go there!)
- Place your hands on your shins or perhaps place them on the ground in front of you. I personally enjoy wrapping my arms around my legs like the picture above. (It’s kind of like giving yourself a big hug. And I dig that.)
- Use your inhales to lengthen.
- Use your exhales to fold a little deeper and work toward straightening your legs (but be careful not to hyperextend your knees).
- Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds. If you do this every day, you’ll start to notice improved flexibility in no time!
If you choose to place your hands on the floor in this pose, the photos below should help with your form. Notice that in the first photo, my back is straight and my gaze is forward (corresponding with an inhale). In the second photo, I am exhaling and folding deeper.