Seated forward bend is often pictured in magazines with perfect models bend over with the ease of cooked spaghetti making the pose look effortless. For the rest of us who have had to work at our flexibility and feel our bodies don’t fit into a certain mould, I hope this article can help to make this pose as accessible and enjoyable as possible.
I remember when I first went to a yoga class. My body was like set concrete. My pride bruised when I was told to use straps and blocks. For all the classes, I went to over a number of years, when it came to the seated forward bend I wasn’t that much further to conquering the pose. I let my ego tell me that I was simply not built for the seated forward bend.
As the years went by my yoga improved, but the seated forward bend still remained a bittersweet one for me. Yes I could easily now reach past my toes but my chest was still not resting on my legs. Because of this I felt I could never let go in it. I spoke to many yoga teachers who would use adjustments to try and push me towards my knees. The worst feeling was that I didn’t enjoy it.
As time went by my yoga became of a standard that meant I was granted the grace of becoming a teacher of Hatha and then Kundalini yoga. I realised that parodically it’s often the poses we like the least we learn to love the most as they have so much to teach. My lesson was to let go and I did, I stopped trying to look like spaghetti and instead learnt to do the pose in a way that was of most benefit to me.
So before I share with you my tips on how to improve this pose, first of all let’s see why the seated forward bend is such a grace of a pose and why? Here are some of the benefits.
♦ Improves flexibility and also lengthens the legs, back, and body. ( Sitting down all day has the opposite effect)
♦ It calms the nervous system and helps stress
♦It’s good for the ovaries and uterus hence helps with menstruation
♦It is the ultimate in surrender
♦It massages your internal organs
Please check with your doctor for suitability and warm up fully before trying any of the following:
Method one Let’s get the feeling of the body on the legs
Sitting up straight with your legs out in front of you and your body tall. If you find it hard to sit up straight try sitting on a yoga block or cushion. Now bend your legs, reach your toes and try to hook your first two fingers around the toes. Straighten the legs only as far as you can keep the body so it is resting in the legs. So even if you have the legs bent the emphasis is the body being on the legs. If still difficult use a belt and a folded blanket on your legs. Once the body is on the legs trying and relax the shoulders onto the back. Take deep relaxing breaths and remember with all poses to work to your comfortable edge. Come out of if any pain. Don’t come out because your are bored though. Hold for 5 to 60 breaths building up slowly with compassion.
Method two Let’s get the feeling of relaxing in the pose
Invest in a yoga bolster. You can surrender fully into the pose if you place the bolster on the legs and surrender over it like a rag doll. I hold this for two minutes plus but again work up to it. Never ignore pain!
Method three Let’s try classical
Do this one last if your are practicing all three.
Sitting with the legs out in front of you, back nice and tall. If you find it hard to sit like this place a block underneath the buttocks, which will help to elevate the body.
Now from this straight position bend forward from the heart, do not lead with the head, and resist the temptation to let the shoulder rush off out in front of you, but rather let the shoulders surrender down the back.
Inhale as you bend forward and exhale as you touch the toes, shins or thighs, depending on how flexible you are.
Hold for 5 to 20 breaths.
I hope you enjoy!
Thanks for reading
(The Word Sprite)
For more yoga tips check out my yoga book