Forward folds are probably my favorite part of the practice. I love the stretch behind the legs, and that feeling of complete surrender as the upper body dangles supported by the strength of the legs. Folding creates a physical closing of the body that really helps me to look inwards. And so today I bring you a Forward Fold Tutorial.
Getting into the pose:
Start in tadasana and bring the awareness into the feet and legs. Be sure that the feet are at hip width and the weight is distributed evenly between the 4 corners of each foot.
Bring the hands to the hips with the forefingers resting on the hip flexors. Let the shoulders relax down away from the ears and inhale deeply. As you feel the lungs fill with air feel the collar bones spread apart.
Keep the shoulders drawing back, chest reaching forward and begin to press the thumbs into the hips, encouraging the hips to shift back. Bring a soft bend into the knees, and exhale as you begin to reach forward with the heart moving into a Half Forward Fold. The spine should remain long all the way to 90 degrees, so bend the knees as much as you need to and press the thigh bones actively back in order to keep the integrity of the spine.
Once you start to pass 90 degrees you can begin to round the spine coming into your forward fold. Allow the neck to release, and begin to work the legs towards straight, but be sure that the lumbar is lower than the sacrum. Rest the hands down to touch the floor, your shins, or a block. Stay here and breathe. On the inhales feel space coming into the body and perhaps back off of the stretch a bit. On each exhale, try to release tension in the backs of the legs, and deepen in the hip crease.
Wrap the hands behind the shins to get some leverage and begin to pull the belly to the thighs. This variation is available to those who want to deepen, and whose hamstrings are already pretty open. From here, you can begin to leverage the grip on the shins and pull yourself more deeply into the pose.
Tips Tricks and Modifications:
Never, ever sacrifice comfort for what you think the pose should look like. If you experience any tension or pain in the low back, bend the knees more deeply, as deeply as you need to in order to find ease in the low back
If you feel tension in the neck, make sure you are releasing it completely. If you have vary tight hamstrings, and struggle to get the spine past 90 degrees, then you may want to keep some activation in the neck in order to maintain alignment with the spine.
If you are very tight, try widening the legs farther apart. You can even grab hold of opposite arms and use the weight of the arms, gently swinging side to side, to lose the hamstrings.