Have you ever wanted to get deeper in your forward fold? Do you feel like you haven’t made progress in awhile with these? Well, I am here to tell you three little secrets to help you! These are commonly forgotten and are key to a deeper forward fold.
First and foremost, why should we forward fold? If you are sitting all day this is a good way to break up that pattern and lengthen the hamstrings rather than keep them short. For low back issues, this is perfect to help relieve that pressure and tension. When the hamstrings are tight, they tend to pull and put pressure on the low back.
Forward folds aren’t just good for the muscles and joints, they help massage your inner organs of the the belly and improve digestion. They calm the central nervous system, relieve stress, and menstrual cramps. As well as reduce fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.
But what is a safe way to do a forward fold and how do we get deeper into them?
How To Forward Fold
- As you stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), place your hands on your hips and inhale.
- As you exhale, soften your knees and fold slowly forward from your hips. Counterbalance your body weight by moving your tailbone and hips back slightly as the body leans forward.
- Keep your knees soft so your sit bones point up to the ceiling and your hip points roll forward into the upper thighs.
- Rest your hands on the ground beside your feet or hold onto your elbows. Ensure that your feet are still parallel (second and middle toes pointing forward). Hollow out your belly and encourage the chest bone to float down to the top of your feet and increase the space between your pubis and your chest bone. Feel that the fold comes from your hip joint and not from rounding of your lower back.
Secret #1: Spine In Line
As we forward fold it’s common to forget that our upper body goes with us in the fold. As you fold over, remember to keep extending and lengthening your spine, but don’t forget your head (it is attached to your body thank goodness)! We tend to crane our necks forward to create the illusion we are going deeper. Instead, keep your head in line with your spine. This will help further lengthen your spine.
Secret #2: Thighs Down, Belly Up
A common mistake in a forward fold is everything hangs limply and no muscles are really engaged. There are two components you must remember, first is to press your thighs back (or down if you are seated) and engage your quadriceps. The more your quadriceps are engaged the more easily your hamstrings can lengthen. The second is to engage your core. Drawing your belly up towards your spine will not only protect your lower back but lengthen the psoas to help you extend your spine even more.
A Word of Caution: Make sure you do not hyper-extend your knees back. Focus on pressing the femurs back and engaging the quadriceps.
Secret #3: Foot Position
As you are doing your forward folds you may find different foot positions are easier than others. I personally find that if my feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart, my fold goes deeper. In this case, my hips are tight and need the space to tilt forward more. Keep this in mind as you try different foot positions and play around to see what works for you!
Prop It Up!
Don’t be afraid of props! If your hands cannot reach the ground while your spine is straight then please use your blocks. When you are ready, lower the blocks down to different levels to deepen the fold. Using blankets while seated is another great way to help your hips by giving them the tilt forward they need.
If you’ve got a wall handy, place your sit bones on the wall and walk your feet forward about a foot and a half away from the wall, place your hands on blocks. The sit bones against the wall help give you a landmark to push against while your hips are tilted forward giving you the lift they need as well as engaging your quadriceps.
Always Practice Safely
There are a few things to be aware of when practising to prevent injury. Always pay attention to your body, don’t force ever force a pose, and recognise that there will be easier days than others. Remember practice is progress but too much practice can cause damage and overstretching or even tearing of muscles and tendons.
Sprinkle these secret ingredients into your practice and see what magic happens in your forward folds! I’d love to hear from you and the progress you made! Are there other little tips and tricks you like to use in your practise? Let me know!