This intermediate forward bend practice begins with standing poses to wake up the hips and legs and establish the relationship between the legs and the torso. Props are used to help define and open the front of the hip crease, creating separation between the legs and torso. Then come inversions, in which the legs are used to lift and support the torso, creating torso/leg separation in a different way. Single leg variations in Shoulder Stand are included to work with the relationship of the legs to the hips once again. Finally, simple seated forward bends are practiced, with and without props to explore the leg/hip relationship.
The practice begins with seated poses to wake up the ankles, feet and knees. It follows with reclined poses to stretch out the backs of the legs and to open the hips in outward rotation. After that come lateral standing poses, in which the theme of the day, the spirals in the legs and torso, can be optimally employed. It ends with restorative poses to settle and center the system.
This basic sequence begins with standing pose work facing into the wall for feedback and support, creating mobility in the hips and pelvis and length in the sides of the torso. It follows with reclined poses, seated poses and abdominal poses followed by restorative poses to release the abdomen and hips.
This practice includes standing poses that emphasize flexion in the hip and opening up the backs of the legs as a preparation for seated forward bends. It also features bent-leg poses as a vehicle for highlighting the relationship between the thighs and the lower back without over-taxing the backs of the legs.
In this sequence, think of lengthening the inner thighs, as in the previous practice, while softening and widening the buttocks, the outer hips, outer thighs and lower back.
Think of softening and widening the entire side body from the outer hips all the way up to the highest point of the armpits.
This is practice is for when you need a time-out. Perhaps after the meal is underway, after cleaning up, or after company has finally gone. It is a quiet practice designed to restore and rejuvenate.
If you have an eye pillow or a face cloth, place it over your eyes in the supine poses.
As always, the most important thing to think about when doing poses that have a forward bending element to them is where the fold is happening. This should be at the hip crease and not at the waist. In each of the forward poses,go through the following stages:
- With the back long and wide, and not pushing forward, fold at the hips as far as you can before the point comes when you need to round the back and shorten the front.
- Once you get to that point, keep the sides of the torso lengthening towards the head as you proceed. Do not allow the torso to slump back towards the hips.
- If necessary, do your straight-leg poses with the knees bent to keep the headward length of the torso.
In this basic standing pose practice, we will focus on freeing up the soles of the feet and drawing weight up through the torso in order to take the weight of the joints and hopefully create a greater sense of freedom as you move. Consider the following actions as you go through the sequence:
- Ground evenly through the toe mounds.
- Lengthen the toes and heels without gripping the top of the foot.
- Allow the top of the shin to shift towards the toes to unlock the knee.
- Draw the torso headwards to take weight out of and unlock your hips, ankles and knees. Initiate movement into and out of your poses with this upward movement.
- In standing poses, lift through the torso to roll the toes up and rise up onto the heel of the front foot. Maintain the lift in the torso. Roll through foot to bring it back down and soften towards toes.
When we take forward bends, there is often a sense of slumping in the pose. If the hips, hamstring or back are tight, the torso is pulled back and down towards the legs and there is a sense of collapse. Though we do want the back to round in a forward bend, we want the forward arch of the flexing spine to be even and balanced, with as much forward reach as there is backward grounding.
In this practice, we will attempt to create length in the torso by creating a sense of separation between the abdomen and the thighs. In each of the poses, consider the following:
- Move the torso cleanly forward from the hip crease, not from the shoulders or chest. Keep the hip creases soft and wide.
- If it helps to create an easier fold at the hip, or a more balanced reach through the torso, work with the knees bent in poses where the legs are usually straight.
- Keep the sides of the waist long, reaching towards the head.
- Soften and widen the lower abdomen while allowing the upper abdomen to move towards the head.
- Find a sense of evenness as you reach forward through the sides and arms and ground back through the hips and legs. (more…)
In this practice, the focus will be on creating a deep fold at the hip crease. If the Hamstrings, hips or lower back are tight, this range of motion can become limited. To reduce this, we will work with the legs bent, only straightening them at the last moment, and then perhaps not all the way if the sides start to crunch or the torso is pulled back and up. (more…)