Although it is considered a beginner's pose, the Straddle Forward Bend Twist can prove to be very challenging for most, especially people who are tight in their trunk rotation and hamstrings.
How To: Straddle Forward Bend Twist
Start with your feet apart. The distance between your feet should be approximately the length of one of your legs. Make sure your feet are on the same line and that they are parallel. Take a deep breath in and on your exhale fold yourself over from your hip joint. You will be folding your pelvis over your legs. It is very easy to not pay attention and fold from the back. Do not do this.
No matter how tight your hamstrings are, you can get the fold you need and a proper stretch in the back of the legs and not over stretch the back. If you find your hamstrings are so tight, then modify the pose. Modifying entails starting out the same way, but have a bend in the knee. This will give some space in the hamstrings and allow you to feel how you should fold properly. You will hang here for several breaths, stabilizing yourself and focusing on the feel of the stretch.
With both hands on the floor in front of your feet, take a deep breath in and come halfway up with a strong flat back. A flat back is critical to be able to move forward in the pose's twist action. When you come up halfway with the flat back, extend out through the top of your head. Do not lift your chin and stay neutral in the neck.
Continue to extend the back flat. If you go round here, it will restrict the twist. Start to twist your chest open to the left. Drop your right shoulder and open the left chest shoulder. With every inhale, get longer and flatter and twist deeper with every exhale. Keep your hips squared and avoid the desire to drop your right hip into the twist. Hold for several breaths.
If you want a little more chest stretch, bring your long extended left arm up around and behind the back, eventually tucking the left hand into the front of the left thigh. Keep breathing and twisting. Release gently and repeat on the other side. The whole time you are holding this pose, remember to keep your feet flat and strong into the floor. Feel a connection the whole time at the base of the big toe, the base of the pinky toe and the inner and outer heel. The temptation is to release all your energy to the outer ankle and that can in time strain and tire the ankle out.
Benefits of Straddle Forward Bend Twist
The role of straddle forward bend is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Increase in flexibility in the back of the thigh and leg
- Open hips
- Lengthen the neck
- Strengthen the back
- Increase lung capacity by opening the ribs
- Improve the trunks rotation ability
- Strengthen the legs and ankles
- Stretch inner thighs
- Calms the brain, as it is a mild inversion
- Fights headache fatigue and mild depression
For the lay person or the yogi, this pose requires a great combination of balance, strength and stretch. This triple threat always improves the body, mind and spirit. The pose opens the legs and decompresses the spine for greater vitality and energy. Straddle Forward Bend Twist teaches the practitioner to open and let go, but remain in control and present so that you do not topple over.
For the athlete, this pose is amazing for opening the hips and hamstrings. You can surrender to the pose without the force and constant yanking of a seated forward bend. It is extremely effective to maintain strength and stability of the ankle joint. It is great for people who play on unstable surfaces such as ice or athletes who command great agility on the field such as soccer players or racquet sport competitors.
In these games, it is crucial to have a strong ankle to support quick moves. This pose is also great to help athletes improve their rotation in the trunk. This becomes a huge advantage to players like wide receivers, soccer players, baseball players and golfers. All these participants depend on power in the twist to hit a home run or to make a quick turn to catch a pass. This pose coupled with deep hip openers such as Pigeon Pose creates superior power in play.
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:
- Lower back injury
- Herniations of the spine
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.
Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990.Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com.Gwen's unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy, nutrition and homeopathy, provide her clients, class participants and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga instructor for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, and the Pace University baseball team; as well as many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea. Visit her website at www.poweryogaforsports.com.