How to Relieve Tightness in Your Back, Hips, and Hamstrings

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If you’re looking for a stretch that you can do anytime, anywhere, it doesn’t get much better than a forward fold. Yes, we all know we should follow a regular stretching routine before and after a workout, and even on rest days if we really want to improve flexibility. But sometimes you really just need a stretch to turn to when you want to relax and relieve tension from a busy day. A front fold can work for you.

The forward fold (also known as the forward bend or fold stretch) is one of the best and easiest stretches to improve flexibility. It targets the back of the body and also relieves tension in the back and neck. And you can do it at your desk (no need to sit on the floor). It doesn’t get any easier than this.

What is a forward fold?

A forward fold is a stretch where you basically fold your upper body over your legs. It’s actually a standard yoga pose (or asana)—the Sanskrit word for “fold forward” is Uttanasana—included in a series of poses known as sun salutations. If you’ve ever taken a flow yoga-style yoga class, you’ve probably done a lot of forward folds.

The front fold can be performed standing or sitting. “When sitting, you remove the contribution of the legs, so it’s an easier form or modification of the standing forward fold,”

The benefits of front folding

In yoga, forward folds are used to help you relax and build a solid foundation in your feet and legs, says Lyons. “They soothe the nervous system, encourage some introversion (introspection and inquiry), and they can be used as a warm-up or as a cool-down for more intense poses.

“Physically, this pose stretches the hamstrings, glutes, and calves,” says Lyons. You’ll also feel a gentle release in your neck and back. “The standing front tuck improves flexibility in the back of the body, which is important during times when we all tend to sit.

It can also help improve your balance and proprioception, or your body’s ability to recognize and orient itself in space. “Variation and inversion of visual cues, as well as changing your weight distribution, will improve proprioception in the muscles around the joints of the lower extremities,” says Dr.

Who Shouldn’t Do a Front Fold?

Folding forward is usually a safe and gentle stretch, but folding can exacerbate back injuries or disc problems. Gentle modifications to the spine include bending the knees or switching to a seated version.

Also, placing the head below the heart (folded forward) may not be safe for people with high blood pressure. If you have any concerns about the safety of this pose, consult your doctor or physical therapist before attempting it.

How to Add Forward Folds to Your Routine

Lyons recommends forward folding any time of the workday when you need a quick reset. In general, it’s a good idea to take standing and walking breaks throughout the day and do hamstring exercises. As you do this, add a forward fold. “Start with bent knees and gradually start extending your legs as far as they allow. Your hands can be on the floor for support or clasped behind your back,”

It’s also a great post-workout stretch. “After a rigorous workout or cardio session, stand and tuck forward with your feet hip-width apart,” says Dr. “Clasp your hands over your head or put your hands behind your back, allowing your spine to lengthen, your head to drop, and your hamstrings to release sweetly.”

She also recommends doing a seated forward fold before bed to clear the day and a final gentle, relaxing stretch.

How to make a front fold

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  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms by your sides.
  • Exhale as you fold forward from the hips and bring your head toward the floor. Tuck your chin down, relax your shoulders, and consider reaching the top of your head toward the floor to create a long spine.
  • Keep your knees straight, but slightly bent so they don’t lock out. This will help protect your back.
  • Touch the floor with your fingertips. You can also wrap your arms around your legs if you feel comfortable.
  • Hold for 30–60 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe.
  • Bend your knees and slowly roll up, starting at the waist, stacking one vertebra at a time to return to standing.

If you can’t reach the floor with your hands or your hamstrings are very tight, bend your knees more or try placing your hands on an elevated surface, such as a yoga block.

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