Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Forward Bends, redux

This week in class we’ve been working on forward bends. I wrote about this group of poses back in March, emphasizing the actions of the pelvis and hip joints and the flexibility in the legs and lower back. You should also be aware of the role of the spine in all of this hinging and folding. Try to do the following series, but really focus on lengthening the spine before you begin to bend. As you lift the top of the head up and ground into the sit bones, you will feel the side ribs lengthen and the lower back open. This increased space, especially in the lumbar spine, will allow the pelvis to tip farther forwards and deepen the fold at the hip crease.

It may not be a dramatic increase (who’s judging, right?), but you are trying to create space and with space comes awareness. Move slowly into the poses. Hold each stage for a few breaths, deepen on an exhale and then hold a bit longer. All the while, stretch up through the top of the head instead of pressing forward with the belly button. Let gravity and the weight of your torso initiate the fold.

This weekend I am going to be in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for Yoga Journal’s spring conference. I am attending the sessions especially for teachers, so I should come back with all sorts of ideas of deepening your practice. I am also doing a couple of interviews for my next article, Silence as a Teaching Tool, with Rama Berch and Cyndi Lee. I imagine that ought to provide some food for thought, as well. So, lengthen, fold and stay tuned!

Forward Bends
(Easy Pose) Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position with the sitbones on a folded blanket. Increase the height of the blanket if you can’t sit without rounding the lower back. Take a few minutes to really concentrated on balancing the pelvis and lengthening the spine. Stretch the arms overhead to feel the lift in the side ribs, and then lower the arm but keep lifting in the side body.

Dandasana + Hastasana (Staff Pose + Overhead Arm Stretch) Extend the legs out in front of you, pressing the soles of the feet away evenly and engaging the thigh muscles. Raise your arms to the side and keep the shoulders away from the ears as you lift your arms overhead. After your initial stretch, begin to fold forward from the hips; keep the arms long and the side ribs lifted. Lead with the belly button as you lengthen the backs keep stretching the spine and notice if the fold deepens. Sit up and relax the legs.

Upavistha Konasana Fold your blanket into thirds, so you have a higher base for the sit bones. Spread the legs to either side, but not so wide that you can’t keep the knees and toes pointing to the ceiling. Lengthen the backs of the legs as you press the soles of the feet away, like Staff Pose. Stretch the arms overhead, lengthen the side ribs and begin to fold at the hip crease. As with the earlier Forward Bend, keep you attention in the length of the spine to create space around the hip joint. Let gravity and the opening of the muscles as you exhale increase the fold, but don’t force yourself forwards. Return to center and relax the legs.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog) This is a good time to release the hips, but also continue stretching the legs. Start the series in a well-measured dog. Begin in Balasana Your outstretched arms should now be placed with the heels of the hands beneath the shoulders. Lift the hips up and back, with the knees bent to get the upper body aligned and then press the thighs back to begin straightening the legs. Don’t worry about pressing the heels to the floor, when you lengthen the backs of the legs the heels will start to sink. As with the other poses, be very aware of the length of the spine and try to increase the distance between the top of the head and the tailbone. Come back to Child’s for a release pose.

Parivrtta Janu-sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose) Begin in Staff with the spine long and aligned. Then slide the left knee to the side and, using both hands, gently roll the shin and top of the foot towards the floor. Try and line your heel up with the center of your perineum, but don’t loose the length in the lower back. Extend the left leg to the side so that your legs make a 90-degree angle. Keep the left big toe and knee pointed towards the ceiling. As you sit tall and concentrate on lifting the side ribs and start twisting to the right (towards the bent knee). Begin folding towards the extended left leg (leaning backwards, sort of). Slide your left hand along the left leg, or lower onto your forearm if you can still keep the spine long. With each exhale, deepen the twist as you lengthen the back. Place your hand flat on the floor to assist the twist, or take hold of your foot.

-Bring the right arm straight up and then drop is slightly to the back to increase the twist. Bring it down to your right hip, or, if it doesn’t affect the length of the spine, reach over and take hold of the other side of your left foot. Breathe deeply and try to extend into the pose every few breaths by stretching the top of the head away from the tailbone. Slowly release the hands and bring the torso upright. Untwist and then return the legs back to Staff Pose. Repeat on the other side.

Savasana (Corpse Pose) Release yourself onto the floor and draw your knees up to your chest. Rock back and forth to massage and release the lower back. Then extend your legs, release your arms and allow yourself to sink into the support of the floor. Let each exhale be a point of deepening. Stay for as long as you like. ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved


Total Health Yoga - Kris Kramer said...

Thank you for all the details! It's very kind of you to provide so much info. I look forward to hearing about the Lake Geneva Conference. I was going to attend, but will be at training with Rod Stryker this month.
Have a wonderful time and thanks again!

Brenda Plakans said...

Have a great training with Rod! Maybe you can post some of the ideas you pick up and we can compare notes...I'm always looking for new ideas, approaches, etc.


Total Health Yoga - Kris Kramer said...

Definitely!! If I'm not too exhausted at the end of the day--each day runs from 8:30-5:00ish--I'll post highlights from the day. Great idea. It starts May 16 for 5 days. I'll post at
Happy learning :-)