Forward Bend Yoga Poses

Learn step-by-step how to practice forward bend yoga poses that improve lower-body flexibility and strength, promote proper alignment, and help alleviate lower back pain.

What are Forward Bend Yoga Poses?

The name is pretty self-explanatory. In yoga, partially or fully bringing one’s chest toward their legs counts as a forward bend.

Unlike backbends, where the action is concentrated around the spinal column, forward bend yoga poses originate at the hip. In essence, you “fold” the body in half, with the hips acting as the hinge.

A common misconception about forward bend yoga poses is that the main goal is to stretch the hamstrings and touch your toes. However, it is far more important to focus on hip strength and active mobility range.

Benefits of Forward Bend Yoga Poses

  • West stretch. Since yoga is meant to be practiced facing the rising sun, the front of the body is referred to as “East,” while the back side of the body is known as “West.” Forward bend yoga poses always bring a stretch into the back, glutes, and the rear surface of the neck and legs.
  • Stronger hip flexors. Your hip flexors play an integral role in daily functions such as sitting down, standing up, walking, and running. The forward bending motion is prompted by the hip flexors (or at least it should be), which makes them stronger with regular practice.
  • Decompression. Performed from a standing position, forward bend yoga poses double as inversions, which relax and decompress the spine. In a seated position, the spine is flexed, creating spaces between the vertebrae, once again allowing it to relax and lengthen.
  • Better posture. Hip flexors are not the only muscles that benefit from forward bending! The various back muscles that support your spine work hard to bring the torso forward as well as lift it back up. This results in a healthier, more confident posture.

Examples of Forward Bend Yoga Poses

Since the forward direction is a very broad concept, forward bend yoga poses can be performed from different angles.

Standing Poses




Plow Pose (Halasana)

Ear Pressing Pose (Karnapidasana)

Upward Lotus Pose (Urdhva Padmasana)

Ramp it up!

If you find forward bend yoga poses too easy, you can challenge yourself in a number of ways.

  • Work on your hip flexors. Instead of folding towards your legs, bring the legs up! This is much harder than it sounds, which is why Boat Pose is much more challenging than gravity-assisted Paschimottanasana.
  • Elevate your feet. In standing variations of forward bend yoga poses, you can stand on a block (or blocks) if reaching the floor is too easy.