Tutorial: Forward bend

Forward bends can be done both sitting AND standing. Forward bends create length in the spine, relieve any compression, and can promote introspection.

But, tight hamstrings and physical patterns, such as rounded shoulders (hello, sitting in front of a computer for hours! check out some great info on “un-rounding” your shoulders HERE) can make forward bends challenging!

Forward bends also provide us an opportunity to break these patterns: a fresh perspective!

Senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Cristie Newhart shares these tips for getting the most out of your forward folds:

Alignment is key.

  • The action of forward bends, is to fold at the hip crease, bringing the top of the pelvis forward.
  • Also, think about lengthening the front of the body as you fold, keeping the neck and jaw relaxed, and engage the quadriceps so that the muscles around the knee are stabilized and protected.  Use the support of the abdominal muscles below the navel allow for greater flexibility in the lumbar spine. And, until the hamstrings are sufficiently open, Cristie says that it’s best to practice forward bends with a slight bend in the knees.

Props are your friends.

kaitlyn-roland-yogadopa-forwardbend

  • Standing: Use blocks to help you lengthen your spine if your hands don’t reach the floor easily.
  • Seated: Place a folded blanked, cushion or bolster under your seat to tilt your pelvis forward. Grab a strap (belt, tie, towel!) to help reach your feet.
  • Use props to prevent over-rounding the back, release tense shoulders, and ease locked knees.

kaitlyn-roland-yogadopa-seated-forwardfold

Don’t force it.

  • Forward bends are not about how deep you can go but rather how deeply you can release. Less is more. 
  • Surrender to the present moment, notice the experience, and settle into the breath. As Cristie reminds us, “Honor the body where it’s at—let it unfold at its own pace.”

So, fold inward and find introspection and release. Much love.

Reference:

kripalu.org/blog/thrive/2012/12/10/the-benefits-of-forward-bends?utm_source=Thrive&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=121012ForwardBend

tap into your root

Despite fighting off a hacking cough and raspy voice, I gathered my strength and took part in a workshop this weekend at Trinity Yoga put on by the lovely Jay Fields.

Jay Fields, graceandgrityoga.com

Jay has been one of my most inspiring teachers, and really admire her honest approach to practice and teaching… and geaky love of anatomy and the human body, like me! Jay’s new endeavour, Grace and Grit Yoga, was launched this summer and aims to create space for rawness and realness in the art of teaching yoga so as to create more growth, integrity and humanity in the yoga community. Check it out at HERE!

This weekend we focused on the pelvic floor, or mula bandha (moo-lah bahn-dah), which is the engagement of the energy of the first chackra, muladhara.

mula bandha is a lock, meaning it helps to contain the flow of energy that leaves and enters our body. This area of the body drives our basic needs, creativity, sex and is our  source of power. At its most basic, mula bandha is a muscular lifting-up of the pelvic floormula bandha is engaged using the perineum muscle, at the base of the cervix in women and prostate in men, the movement of the pelvic diaphragm. Tapping into this engagement helps us integrate power and energy, both in our yoga postures and life, between our lower limbs and torso.

Here are a great hip openers to start working into this area of the body:

thread-the-needle or figure-4

Next, engagement of the abdominal muscles is very important to creating a stable pelvic floor… firstly transverse abdominus which is a big thin sheath that lies deep in your abdomen and wraps horizontally around your torso (and is used in coughing, which I’m good at now!).

Also, pyramidalis, which is a small anterior pyramid-shaped muscle that lies between the top ridge of the pubic bone to the navel. engaging it helps flatten the sacrum and gets rid of sway back.

… and what better way to engage these muscles, than plank!

Press your outer arms inward and firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Also spread your collarbones away from the sternum.

Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you draw your pubic bone to your navel (using pyramidalis!). Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.

So, on a physical level, practicing mula bandha draws your attention to the support provided by the musculature of the pelvis. This increases the stability of the pelvis, and, thus a safe environment for spinal movement. mula bandha strengthens the solid foundation of the pelvis and the yoga posture, but it also lifts and compresses the  lower abdominal region and helps facilitate movement. ultimately, mula bandha creates a power, strength lightness and fluidity.

If you’re interested in more, there is a great article written by Jivamukti founder David Life on mula bandha in your yoga practice (see here). much love.