The seated forward bend, known also as paschimottanasana, often makes an appearance in a yoga class. This fold will allow you to gently loosen your hamstrings and work on hip flexion, and also will allow you to calm down near the end of the class. Unfortunately, this is a pose where you may be particularly tempted to glance at the person next to you and compare how far you both can reach. Instead of engaging in this comparison, there are focus points that will help you stay aware of your own body, and maybe even deepen that pose.
Heart to hips
- Lead with the heart when folding forward.
- Think of the torso as lengthening up and over your toes as you exhale and fold. This will ensure a flatter back.
- While in the pose stay aware of your back and pelvis. If your low back feels rounded and pelvis is tilting backward, exit the pose, take a breath, and retry.
- Concentrate on keeping the knees soft, not locked.
- Spiral the thighs towards each other so that there is a slight internal rotation.
- Press thighs lightly into the floor as you inhale and exit the pose.
When sitting upright with your legs in front of you focus on the pinky toe of each foot. With feet neutral and together, draw the pinky toes slightly towards your body. This is a much easier cue to follow and still creates that same spiraling inwards of the thigh and the inner groins. (Author’s favorite cue.)
A word on props
- Sit on the edge of the blanket. This will help if your hips are tighter and can also help you maintain a flat back.
- Blankets may also be rolled into a bolster shape and placed under the knees if your hamstrings are very tight.
- Wrap a strap around the balls of your feet and hold each end of the strap. Give yourself a bit of leverage with this prop but do not try to force yourself down through the sheer force of your arm strength.
** Sunday columns are intended to answer questions on yoga, yoga living, and yoga asanas. Feel free to ask questions below.