Creating space and movement in the spine starts with some gentle bending and folding of the back. Forward bends help to improve disc and joint function, while aiding circulation of the spinal column.
Yet for most of us, forward bending can be a very challenging and compromising position.
We spend many hours of the day seated, and in an upright position. This develops areas of postural stagnation and rigidity in the muscular and skeletal systems.
There are many ways to access forward bends, both in a standing and seated position.
For people who have tight hamstrings or lower back issues, this pose may require the assist of props.
The Aid Of Props
Support the buttocks with a block, folded blanket or a bolster if seated, or a block or chair to support the arms/hands if standing.
Try softening or bending the knees and notice if this helps the lower back and hamstrings to release.
Use a strap around the feet and bend the elbows as you fold forwards.
Be mindful to have the neck soft and the chin drawn in towards the chest.
On a mental level, forward bends create introspection for the mind, and contemplation. This supports the mind in internalizing, soothing the nervous system and helping the digestion by activating the parasympathetic nervous system also known as the rest and digest response.
How to Get into a Forward Bend
Alignment of the contact points are key to accessing the forward bend.
Have the feet in alignment with the toes pointed forward and heels grounded in standing forward bend.
If seated, the buttocks evenly displaced on the mat or prop.
The hips should tilt forward creating a fold at the hip crease.
Focus on lengthening the sides of the body, the ribs and chest as you fold in towards the quadriceps. Slightly activate the quads to protect the knees.
The belly should be relaxed and soft to allow the spine to let go. If the abdomen is contracted this means the back is protected. The idea is to lengthen the back, so depending on how you choose to work your forward bend, a contracted or relaxed abdomen may differ from person to person. Try out both techniques and discover what works best for you.
The neck and shoulders should remain soft and supple with chin drawn into the chest.
Tips to Remember
Try not force your body into the pose. It is not about how far forward you bend, or trying to reach your toes, but how you release and open the body. Let your mind relax and take you deeper into the posture by focusing on a slow, deep breath rhythm.
"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down." -Jigar Gor
Private Yoga Classes available with Jade Aastha www.bodhialchemy.com