How to: Standing Forward BendStart with your feet hips width apart. This alone is tricky. Be honest with yourself while figuring out your hips width. The true distance is where your leg bone (femur) comes out of the hip socket, not where the outside of your fleshy hip is. Next, make sure your feet are parallel. They should resemble the number 11. No matter how advanced you are, you will start with your knees bent and chest resting on your thighs. You will keep this connection throughout the whole hold of the pose, once you disconnect the chest from the thighs you risk rounding and over stretching the back.
When the knees are bent make sure your knees track directly over your toes for perfect alignment of the legs. Slowly straighten your legs by lifting your hips straight up to the sky. Stop when you feel good resistance. Go far enough that you feel a deep stretch and not so far that you cannot breathe.
Keep your eyes open for the best stability. You can keep your hands on the floor at first for the best balance or try to grab opposite elbow with opposite hand to get a nice deep hanging feeling.
It is very important when you are relaxing in the pose that your weight is not far back in the heels but right in the middle of your foot. If all your weight is back it is like slamming the breaks on the optimum opening of the hamstrings. Stay here and breathe. Don't be afraid to sway from left to right, or to bend and straighten the legs as you negotiate your way deeper and deeper in the hamstrings.
A good alternate for athletes is to start with the same approach, however, face a wall. Once in forward bend, lean your back up against the wall. Here you will get a maximum opening while not being concerned with balance, therefore you can release fully. It's hard but awesome!
Benefits of Standing Forward BendThe role of standing forward bend is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Facilitate forward flexion in the hips and spine
- Open the hamstrings
- Stimulate kidneys and adrenal glands
- Increase circulation to the brain
- Elongate side body to aid respiration
- Mild traction of the neck
For the athlete, the opening of the hamstrings is a crucial part of training and recovery. When the hamstrings and hips are more supple and elongated, there is less strain stress and energy transfer to the vulnerable knee joint, lessening the incident of knee damage. When an athlete focus' on opening the hamstrings, he or she is increasing stride and range of motion. This directly benefits speed and agility on the playing field or court. Always remember if you are focusing on the back of the leg to also pay attention to the front of the leg, the quadriceps muscles.
Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained yoga teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:
- Recent abdominal surgery
- High blood pressure
- Sinus difficulties
- Care should be taken with recent neck or back surgeries or injuries