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Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings

A short dynamic forward bend sequence for those short on time or not needing a warm-up



We will start off in Supta Virasana to bring energy into the front of our legs. Since this will be a more dynamic class with a very short warm-up stage, it’s best to start off with as little support as you can (use a folded blanket instead of a bolster): this will help you achieve a more wholesome stretch in the quadriceps and will make this pose more invigorating than the variation we use in restorative classes. If Supta Virasana is too hard on your knees, you can replace this pose with Supta Baddha Konasana.

After a few minutes in this supine position, we will go into Virasana Forward to release any tension we might have accumulated so far. Then, to even out the action in the front of our legs, we will stand up for Uttanasana. Try to avoid bending your knees as you practise this pose today. If you lack flexibility, you can place blocks or any other support under your hands: the main thing to work towards is extending the backs of the thighs as much as possible.

We will then move on to several variations of Adho Mukha Svanasana. First, we will do this with our heels to the wall and then we will turn to face the opposite direction and do the pose with our feet together and the thumb and index finger placed against the wall. To further stretch the hamstrings, we will also be doing the one-legged variation of Dogpose: Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana. As you do this latter, make sure you keep your body steady: stay grounded through your heel and hands, and don’t let your hips twist to the side as you lift your leg up.

Next, we will do Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 with the foot of the lifted leg pressed against the wall. Make sure to maintain your Tadasana line as you stand in this pose. Use the wall support to steady yourself and help you focus on extending upwards through the crown of your head.

As our final standing forward bend today we will be doing Parsvottanasana with the big toe of the front foot pressed against the wall. As you fold forward, observe any tightness in your legs and redirect your mental energy towards releasing it. An important thing to remember today is that the state of the mind plays a big role in the quality of our practice: if our thoughts are passive, it will be more difficult to get into the pose.

Finish the standing pose section by taking a few breaths in Tadasana before going into Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing splits) done two ways. If such a deep stretch is not an option, you can stay a few moments in Uttanasana instead.

Before going into the seated section of the class, we will do a couple of inversions (Adho Mukha Vrksasana and Salamba Sirsasana), practising going up and coming down using different legs. We will do the one-legged variation in Sirsasana as well so as to further consolidate the stretching action in the hamstrings.

Since our legs will be warmed up quite substantially by the time we get to the seated part of the class, we will be mixing up the sequence with some fairly advanced forward bends, such as Ubhaya Padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana. To make this part of the practice more balanced, we will be doing some neutral poses in-between the more strenuous ones: for example, taking frequent breaks in Virasana or Dandasana so as to release any accumulated tension.

There will be no cool-down session in this particular class. We will leave this part to your own discretion. A good way to finish off would be by doing a simple cross-legged forward bend followed by Pawanmuktasana or Viparita Karani and, finally, either Savasana or Supta Swastikasana as a way of letting go completely and taking some time to reflect on the benefits of the class.

View sequence

Supta Virasana
Reclining Hero Pose
Lay on your back with your legs bent, your toes pointing backward.
Standing Forward Bend
Starting in Tadasana, exhale and reach down towards your feet. Let your spine release downwards. You can bend your knees or place your hands on blocks if you lack the necessary flexibility.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Press evenly into your hands and feet. The main aim is to elongate the back of your body and lift your hips up as high off the ground as possible without losing the stable foundation created by your hands and feet. If you lack the hamstring flexibility, bend your knees a little.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1
Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose 1
Grab your foot by the toe and straighten your leg, maintaining your Tadasana line. Lengthen through the crown of your head and keep your body from tipping over. Use wall support if you lack the balance. You can also use a belt if you lack hamstring flexibility.
Pyramid Pose
Place your feet one leg-length apart, your back foot angled out slightly. Keep your legs straight as you start to fold over your front leg, maintaining a concave spine for as far into the bend as possible.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana
Full Arm Balance (Handstand)
Open your hands into the floor and strengthen your arms as you lift your body up, one leg at a time, into an inverted balance. Use the wall for support if necessary. If pushing yourself up proves to be too difficult, you can walk your feet up the wall.
Salamba Sirsasana Wall Support
Headstand 1
Activate your shoulders and upper back muscles as you lift your body up into inverted balance. Use the wall for support if necessary.
Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings
Hero Pose
Sit with your legs bent with your heels on either side of your buttocks. Keep your back straight, avoid sinking forward or back.
Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings
Double Toe Hold
Start in a seated position. Bend your knees and grab a hold of your big toes. Extend your legs up and balance yourself on your coccyx to assume a V-shape with your body. Pull your abs in, activate your core, open your chest. If you cannot reach your ankles, use a belt to help you reach your feet.
Seated Forward Bend
Make sure the backs of your legs are pressed firmly to the ground as you bend over to reach your feet. Release the spine. Use a belt if necessary.
Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings
Heron Pose
Start in Dandasana. Bend one leg back into Virasana. Extend the other leg upward, so that, ideally, your shin meets your head. Use a belt if necessary.
Seated Forward Bend
Make sure the backs of your legs are pressed firmly to the ground as you bend over to reach your feet. Release the spine. Use a belt if necessary.
Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings
Upward Facing Intense Stretch Pose
Balance on your buttocks as you bring your legs up, aiming to reach your shins with your head. Draw your abs in and extend upwards through the crown of your head and the tips of your toes.
Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings
Reclining Forward Bend
Lie down on your back. Lift you legs up and, keeping them straight, bring them down towards your chest. Grab hold of your feet with your hands as you would in upright Paschimottanasana.
Baddha Konasana
Bound Angle Pose
Bring your feet as close as possible to your pelvis and join them together. Straighten your back and let gravity pull your knees down toward the floor. If necessary, use a strap to hold your feet in place.
Upavistha Konasana
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Use support under buttocks if your inner groins roll backward. Kneecaps and all ten toes face the ceiling. Keep your hands by your by hips, fingers pointing forwards. Lengthen your spine. Once you have mastered these foundations, you can also bend forward while reaching your feet with your hands. Use a belt if necessary.
Parsva Upavistha Konasana
Side Seated Wide Angle Pose
Start in Upavistha Konasana. Maintain the position of your legs and buttocks as you release your spine and bend sideways to meet your foot.
Janu Sirsasana
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend
Bend your knee out to the side and keep your sit-bones pointing downward as you stretch out over your extended leg. Use a belt if necessary.
Bharadvajasana I
Bharadvaja's Twist
Bend your legs and bring your feet over to the left. Place your left hand on your top thigh and use it as a lever to help you deepen the twist. The right hand is planted behind your back. Extend through your crown.
Forward bends with emphasis on hips and hamstrings
Marichi's Pose III
Sit down with your legs stretched out. Bend your right knee and bring it close into your chest. Hook your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and twist. Repeat on each side.
Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Supported Bridge Pose
Lie down over support placed under the whole of your body from the thoracic spine down to your knees. The shoulders swoop down to touch the floor. Spread your arms outward or slightly at your side. Activate your feet and press them into the wall.
Corpse Pose
Lie down on the floor. Spread your arms and legs slightly at your side. Relax and concentrate on your breath.