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!
Sukhasana (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.
-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.