Remember you can’t reach what’s in front of you until you let go of what is behind you. ~livelifehappy.com
Folding forward, one becomes immediately aware of his or her limitations. Whether it is your hamstrings, the pain in your back or simply your belly that gets in your way – something will keep you from going too deep too fast. Even in a beginner yoga class there are so many opportunities to fold forward from Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) to Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana) to Child’s Pose (Balasana) and, with them, so many opportunities to turn your gaze inward and let go slowly.
Some people are ready fold forward, their shoulders rounded and head forward, they will fall haphazardly forward from the waist or create a pulley of their toes to force the head to the legs. Their eyes are closed – anything to stay inside where it is safe. It is my belief that in doing this you never let go and, therefore, you are never able move forward – physically or emotionally.
When you fold from the waist, you are over-stretching the deep core muscles of the lower back which protect the spine from bending beyond it’s limits. You are also locking your pelvis and sacrum in place, and over-stretching the hamstring from the insertion at the knee while maintaining stiffness throughout the origin and length of the muscle. You are also shutting yourself down physiologically, emotionally and energetically. YOU are “locked”. It may even feel good to be protected and closed. You know what feels better? To bend from the depth of your inner groin, pelvis open and free, spine long and neutral, core muscles engaged – to welcome the touch of your belly on your thighs and to let go slowly one exhalation at a time. Engaging the front of your body with confidence – your quads and shin muscles, and the muscles closest to your spine as you lengthen the arches, calves, hamstrings and lower back and soften into yourself, ready to accept whatever comes up without judgement.
How do you know if you are doing it right? First of all, notice if you can gently and purposely rock your pelvis forward and backward – tucking in the tailbone (flattening the lower back) and then arching the lower back. Are your eyes open? Can you acknowledge all that is around you, all that is racing in your mind? Yes? That’s a great start! Now, Can you choose to surrender regardless of any expectations about how deep you are able to go? Can you breath OUT fully? Yes? You are doing it!
How often do we have this opportunity? Not very often. We are all too often listening intently to the person or the broadcast or the text or images in front of us, looking around to see what dangers we must acknowledge and avoid – taking it all in. You don’t have to take a yoga class to acknowledge what you want and need, note your barriers and look inside for the strength, courage and calm to move forward. Sit at the edge of your chair so that your pelvis moves freely forward, bend from the crease of your hips with your eyes open and let go, fold forward, rest your head in your hands on your desk or a pillow on your lap – wherever you land. Exhale.
Precautions: (be careful to keep neutral spine or limit depth of inversion)
Herniated Disc, Post-lumbar surgery, Hip Replacement Surgery, High Blood Pressure or Other Upper Body Pressure abnormalities (especially for standing forward fold)