Bio Mechanics of Forward Bends
What are your limitations while you’re in a forward bend, and how can you proceed in the most effective way? Flo Fenton, a yoga expert, shares her advice. This article initially published in the Australian Yoga LIFE magazine in issue 32 of 2011, and it is reprinted here with the permission of the publisher, Australian Yoga LIFE.
Benefits of Forwards Bends
When you do a forward bend, you are asking your spine to go into the main curvature, which is the form that it adopts when in the womb. Forward bends are just as thrilling and invigorating as backbends, yet they are equally as peaceful and restful. During the backbends, the front of the body (the portion of the body with which we engage with the outside world) is fully opened, whereas during the forward bends, the front of the body is folded in on itself. When it comes to our energetic and emotional well-being, forward bends encourage us to be satisfied with slowing down and looking inside.
Flexibility cannot be obtained via force.it can only be achieved through patience and perseverance.
Bio Mechanics of Forward Bends
In terms of physical benefit, a forward bend is intended to stretch out any tightness in tissues along the entire back surface of the body, from the connective tissue on the soles of the feet to the muscles along the backs of the calves and thighs, to the back of the hips, all the way along the muscles and connective tissue at the back of the torso, alongside the spine, across the back of the shoulders, and even (gently) the ligaments between the spinal vertebrae themselves.
- Bringing the belly button and the thighs closer together might be regarded as the activity of achieving a desirable form of forward bend in yoga postures.
- What we DO NOT want is for the front of the torso to be folded between the abdomen and the rib-cage, which will result in the rear of the spine being rounded and the abdomen being compressed.
- Carrying out the latter allows the front of the spine, chest, and abdomen plenty of space.
- As a result of doing forward bends in this manner, you can build up stress and tension in the short term, and in the long run, you can strain muscles and create circumstances for torn ligaments and bulging discs.
Furthermore, by training in this manner, you will not be able to develop the necessary flexibility that will allow you to finally accomplish the ideal kind of front bend. There are three different sorts of forward bends, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Standing Forward Bends.
For example, Utthanasana (standing forward bend), Padottanasana (standing wide legged front bend), and Parsvottanasana (side stretch position) are all variations of the standing forward bend. Gravity is the driving force behind all forward bends; in fact, gravity accelerates the movement of the torso towards the thighs to such an extent that the muscles along the back of the torso, the legs, and the outer hips must contract in order to control the descent and maintain the stability of the hip joints and of the feet on the floor during the pose.
Seated Forward Bends.
For example, Paschimottanasana (seated front bend) is a forward bend in the seated position. Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana/Head to Knee Pose) Seated forward bends move in the same way as standing forward bends, however gravity has a much less influence here than it does in standing forward bends. If you are doing seated forward bends, even though gravity is working in our favor, you may find that the fixed position of the pelvis, as well as the particular rotation of the femurs in their respective hip sockets, limits your ability to tilt your pelvis forward to the optimal angle, thereby decreasing the degree to which you can bring your belly to your thighs.
see ‘What Places Limits on Us?’ In the Forward Bend, the legs should be in the following position:
Supine Forward Bends.
Supple hamstring stretch, Urdvha Prasarita Padasana (upward extended foot position), are just a few examples of asanas that may be done. Despite the fact that they are not usually classed as forward bends, these supine positions meet the condition of bringing the belly and the thighs closer together. When the torso is on the floor, however, the legs must be brought closer together towards the thighs, causing these postures to move in the opposite direction of the direction of the torso. Given that the torso and hips are supported by the floor and are in neutral, the movement of the leg/s towards the torso is one of pure flexion at the hip joint/s; as a result, these are the most effective postures for monitoring and increasing the degree of pure flexion at the hips.
What do we need in order for a forward bend to happen?
Forward bends are classified as follows: femurs (legs) move while the pelvis remains still to bring the thighs closer to the belly, pelvis tilting while the femurs (legs) move to bring the torso closer to the thighs, and pelvis tilting while the femurs (legs) remain still to bring the torso closer to the thighs. While both standing and sitting forward bends necessitate some spinal flexion (bending forward at the joints of the lumbar spine) near the end of the range of motion, the primary and maximal movement occurs at the hip joints in each of the three groups of participants.
The connection of the pelvis and the spine is referred to as the sacroiliac joint.
These are the joints in the lower spine.
Among those with moderate flexibility, the degree of forward flexion (forward bend) from upright between the torso and the thighs totals 150 degrees between the torso and the thighs. This amount of forward bend is made up of the following components:
- Tilting the pelvis forward is the capacity to do so. Forward tilt of the pelvis is the starting point of any decent ‘yogic’ forward bend, and in our moderately flexible person, this forward tilt of the pelvis accounts for a whopping 90 degrees of the 150 degree forward bend
The rotation of the hips from their neutral position in standing to 90 degrees of forward flexion are seen in these two photographs. 1. Tadasana (Standing Pose) 2. Hips are flexed forward 90 degrees at the hip joint.
- In order to accomplish the 150 degree forward bend, the lumbar spine must be flexed an additional total of 60 degrees. This is made up of the following components:
.18 degrees at the intersection of the pelvis and the spine-S1-L5 is considered normal. The remaining 42 degrees between the five joints L5-T12 are divided into two groups. As we get farther up the lumbar spine, the amount of mobility that is feasible decreases. Once the pelvis has finished its 90-degree forward flexion, the lumbar spine must do the remaining portion of the forward bend. 3. Once the pelvis has finished its 90-degree forward flexion, the lumbar spine must do the remaining portion of the forward bend.
What Limits Us?
As we can see, the most significant forward bending movement should occur when the pelvis is tilted forward at the hip joints. If this does not occur, the forward bend will be significantly hampered. Hip flexion is limited to no more than 30 degrees in many pupils, despite the fact that they are able to do so. So, what is it that prevents the hips from rotating forward in such students?
When it comes to the skeletal structure, the actual form and size of the hip joint’s “ball” and “socket” have a role in determining the degree to which the pelvis may tilt forward. Some people have a somewhat wide and shallow dish shape that forms the socket, as well as a relatively tiny ‘ball’ or femur head, which makes rotation of the femur relatively simple. Some, on the other hand, have a deep dish shape with a narrower entry for their socket and/or a bigger femur head that must spin inside it, resulting in a tight fit with low rotational capability.
These skeletal constraints, on the other hand, can be greatly alleviated by improving the mobility of the joints at the level of the soft tissues surrounding them.
Tight Hip External Rotators
Tightness in the muscles that connect the femur to the pelvis will severely limit the rotational mobility of the hip joint. The external rotator muscles of the hips are organized in a fan-like pattern, with each one connecting the head of the femur to a different place on the pelvis. In particular, the piriformis muscle links to the sacrum, which is itself attached to the spine and articulates with it. If these muscles are tight, two significant things will happen to limit the forward bend: first, the forward bend will be restricted by the tightness of the muscles.
- The thigh bones will desire to rotate outwards as a result of this. When the thighs (and feet) are rolled outward in a posture such as Paschimottanasana, it makes it more difficult for the pelvis to tilt forward over the heads of the femurs, which is the goal of the pose. Consider sitting in Dandasana and moving your knees completely outward so that your feet turn outwards, then trying to bend forward into Paschimottansana.
- In certain cases, excessively tight external rotators narrow the distance between the head of the femur and the pelvis to such an extent that they cause the pelvis to tilt backward (tail tucked under position). This has the effect of rounding the lower back as well. Any attempt to bend further forward from this position means that all of the movement must take place at the junction of the pelvis and the spine, as well as in the lower lumbar vertebrae, putting undue strain on these joints, as well as their ligaments and discs, as a result of which the joints, ligaments, and discs are damaged. (Experiment with sitting in Dandasana and tilting your pelvis back so that you are sitting on the back of your buttocks, and then try to bend forwards.
The hamstring muscles connect the outside of the knee to the’sit-bones’ of the pelvis, which are located on the inside of the knee. Whenever one or both legs are straight, they must extend their bodies in all forward bends. If they are overly tight, they will also restrict the forward movement of the pelvis and may even cause it to tilt back.
Safe Practice Principles.
In any form of forward bend, whether you are a veteran practitioner or a beginner, tight or flexible, the first and most crucial safe practice principle to remember is DON’T PULL! Making a deeper forward bend with your hands cannot and will not increase the forward bend at your hip joints.all it can do is raise the forward bend at your pelvis-spine junction and the joints of your lower spine, which is already a significant amount of forward bend.
It is possible for individuals who are flexible to overstretch their sacroiliac ligaments, and it is also possible for those who are stiff to damage discs and tear muscles when they pull.
The spine and pelvis should be in neutral posture while initiating a forward bend, as seen in the illustration. Standing upright should result in a natural inward arch in the lower back, with the rear of the pelvis softly sloping backward, as seen in the image below: During sitting, this means that the weight will be supported by the perineum rather than the buttocks themselves. If you have tight hips or hamstrings, attempt to loosen your hips and hamstrings before entering into the forward bend to enable your spine to return to its natural curvature.
- (When performing seated forward bends, place as many blankets, pillows, or bolsters as necessary beneath the sitting bones in order to appropriately tilt the pelvis forward and allow the lower back to arch.
- Beginning with the hips, do a forward bend by thinking about raising the tailbone up and back while also rising the pubic bone down and forward, so that the entire pelvis tilts, resulting in the forward bend.
- Remember that the distance between the belly button and the thighs, not the distance between the chest and the shins, is the measure of the forward bend.
- If you don’t have enough hip flexion in your forward bend and maintain your knees straight, you’ll wind up looking like this.
- Incorrect front bend when standing.
- If you don’t have enough hip flexion in your forward bend and maintain your knees straight, you’ll wind up looking like this.
The bened is seated forward incorrectly.
Correct a forward bend when seated.
This type of learner will benefit by lifting the pubic bone slightly before entering the forward bend and concentrating on extending the muscles in their lower back.
Assist your breath in becoming smooth and even while staying within your comfortable breath duration.
As you exhale, bend forward and drag the lower belly button inwards to generate the forward bend.
It does two things by utilizing the breath in this manner:i).
If our breathing becomes disrupted, we have compromised our integrity and must withdraw from the situation.
ii) Keeping the length of the front of the lumbar spine on the in breath while bringing the lower abdomen in on the out breath helps to prevent overstretching of the lower back and sacroiliac joint.
Working the inner thighs can help to counterbalance the impact of tight external rotators, which tend to cause the thighs to roll outwards when they contract. The goal of Paschimottanasana is to keep the thighs together and the inside margins of the big toes contacting in order to maintain the pose. In janu Sirsasana, this entails maintaining the foot of the straight leg active and not allowing it to slide outwards during the pose. Working the feet on the mat as if you were drawing them together is important in symmetrical standing forward bends like Utthanasana.
Supplementary Practices and Ongoing Work
External hip rotators can be stretched in poses like Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) and Supine Janu Sirsasana (Supine Janu Sirasana) (Keyhole Pose) In a purely hip flexion posture such as Supta Padangustasana, lengthen the hamstrings (Reclining Hamstring stretch pose). If the passive leg is really tight, bend it and place the foot on the floor.
Yoga Publications Trust published Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha in 2002. Susi Hately Aldous’ book Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries was published by Eastland Press in 2006. H. David Coulter’s Anatomy of Hatha Yoga was published in 2001. a company devoted to the body and the breath Ray Long, MD, FRCSC, published a book in 2006 titled The Key Muscles of Yoga. Bandha Yoga is a kind of yoga that focuses on the bandha (posture) of the body. Tortora and Grabowski’s Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, Seventh Edition, was published in 1993.
She specializes in ‘paring back’ each position and beginning each session from a foundation point of complete awareness of the key base of each posture.
Flo teaches yoga and meditation courses, seminars, retreats, and teacher trainings.
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A senior yoga instructor and licensed yoga therapist situated in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, Flo Fenton is a registered yoga therapist. She is a regular and significant contributor to the Australian Yoga Life Magazine, which she founded. With each pose, Flo strives to help us discover our own natural ease while also creating an ever-deepening awareness of the link between our physical body, our breath, and our state of mind. By ‘paring back’ each pose and starting from a place of complete awareness of the essential foundation of each posture, we can gain an understanding of where we can remain comfortable in each posture through the medium of graceful, flowing sequences that are in sync with the breath, as demonstrated in the video.
Yoga Therapy classes themselves become a type of Yoga Therapy as we learn to focus inside and acquire the ability to see ourselves. This Yoga Therapy then spills over into our daily lives outside the classroom. a link to the page’s load
The Benefits of Forward Bends
Australia’s Flo Fenton is a senior yoga instructor and qualified yoga therapist who practices in Byron Bay. A prominent and constant writer to the Australian Yoga Life Magazine, she is also a published author. With each pose, Flo strives to help us discover our own natural ease while also creating an ever-deepening awareness of the link between our physical body, our breath, and our state of consciousness. By ‘paring back’ each pose and starting from a place of complete awareness of the essential foundation of each posture, we can gain an understanding of where we can remain comfortable in each posture through the medium of graceful, flowing sequences that are in sync with the breath, as demonstrated in this video.
Yoga Therapy sessions themselves become a type of Yoga Therapy as we learn to focus inside and acquire the ability to see ourselves.
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Examining Common Claims About Forward Folds
In your yoga courses, you’ve no doubt overheard a variety of different types of yoga terminology being spoken. Some people say certain poses “open your heart,” while others claim that certain poses “bring up intense emotions.” In certain classes, teachers may remark things such, “This position is beneficial for anxiety,” or “These poses assist to cleanse your internal organs.” When you were a student, you probably thought to yourself, “Sweet! “I want my inside organs to be free of contamination!” Alternatively, it’s possible that you did not feel the tremendous emotions that were promised, and as a result, you were dissatisfied.
- Lots of legends may be found on the internet.
- Some of these claims, as well as some of the loftier, health-related, and psychological assumptions regarding the poses will be decoded over the following several months by looking at them through the lens of science and movement mechanics.
- Forward-folding postures are frequently defined as stances that cause our attention to be drawn away from the outside world and toward the within world.
- This set of positions is considered to be peaceful and cooling, and they are thought to encourage reflection.
- So, what exactly is going on in these positions that might help to increase one’s interior awareness?
- The iliopsoas is the muscle that is responsible for moving the trunk of the body closer to the thighs from a muscular standpoint.
- Positioned in the bottom region of your mid-spine and joining with the iliacus muscle, located at the top of your pelvis, the iliacus muscle is a lengthy, ropy muscle that helps you sit up and stand up.
This “complex” of muscles is responsible for folding the body in half in the forward motion – folding ourselves into ourselves.
When the spine lengthens, the nerves that travel down the length of the spine become more active.
The parasympathetic nerve system, sometimes known as the “rest and digest” system of the body, is responsible for a variety of functions.
“Relax” is the important word in this situation.
Forward folding may seem more like striving if the hip flexors and psoas muscle are in a weaker position, or if the hamstrings or muscles along the spine are tense.
It is critical to choose a variant of the stance that is appropriate for your specific body type and size.
Thus, the back body will extend, and the nerves that run along it will be able to accept the soothing messages sent by your parasympathetic nervous system. Take a look around, experiment, and have fun practicing!
Is Standing Forward Bend As Simple As It Looks?
In the Ashtanga vinyasa practice that I follow, we begin with sun salutations and then move on to a sequence of fundamental standing asanas to finish the practice. This article is about the first two standing forward bends that you should know about. I’ve already taken you through the process of deconstructing the sun salutations, so let’s take a look at some fundamental asanas in our next posture series. As previously stated, these postures are part of the Ashtanga vinyasa practice; nevertheless, they are also regarded basic postures in many other current schools of yoga.
- Following that, we’ll look at the purpose of each of these essential poses: standing forward bend, triangle, revolved triangular, side angle (with or without a revolved side angle), wide-legged forward bend, and a side stretching position (parsvottanasana).
- What exactly is it doing?
- What postures will be built on top of it or that are linked to it will be revealed.
- What is the evolution of it through time?
- What is the relationship between it and the physiology of the body?
- Padangusthasana and pada hastasana are the two variations that I’ll go over.
What is the purpose of forward bending in general, and what is our goal with it? Whenever we bend forward, we are flexing at the hip joints and through our spinal column. Consequently, the rear of the body gets lengthened, whereas tissues on the front of the body are shortened as a result of this. This is something I go into great length about in my book, Functional Anatomy of Yoga. While in the poses of padangusthasana and pada hastasana, we keep our feet hip distance apart and either grip the toes or place the palms of our hands under our feet for support.
- I frequently refer to a complete forward bend as originating from around 2/3 hip flexion and 1/3 spinal flexion when describing it.
- What additional patterns are we beginning to see emerge in this situation?
- The eccentric contraction of our hamstrings will cause us to lower ourselves toward the ground in order to fold forward.
- We may even experiment with leaning forward onto our toes just a little bit to see how much pressure we put on our hamstrings as a result.
- With regard to the upper body, there are at least two significant patterns that I deal with.
- We can also utilize these two positions to begin developing our serratusawareness, if that is what we choose.
To put it another way, make your elbows point behind you while simultaneously protracting your shoulder blades.
I frequently speak to postures as having a characteristic that is diametrically opposed to one another. I even refer to them as having a quality ofmulaanduddiyana, not in the sense of the actual bandhas, but in the sense of the quality itself. It is the interplay between these two qualities that determines our perceptions of length and strength in our postures. The connection between our hands and feet linking together produces a sense of being anchored (mula quality). As a result of such interaction and strain, the spine as well as the back of the body may get lengthened (uddiyana quality).
- In these two positions, we’re experimenting with the sensation of navigating our way through space.
- In this component of proprioception of balance, the major manner in which we will modify these postures is to shift our pelvis in relation to where our foundation is located, as shown in the illustration.
- If you’re feeling very bold and “going for it,” you can find yourself with your pelvis as far forward as your toes.
- If you have really tight hamstrings, it is likely that shifting your pelvis closer to your toes will cause too much pain.
Understanding the physiology of different postures may be challenging. Why? There hasn’t been nearly as much research into the physiological effects of individual asanas as there has been in the past. It’s possible that individual asanas have very specific physiological advantages, but for the time being, we’re talking about the general benefits of yoga. Forward bends like this can be classified as restorative in part because they are reversible. In terms of function, they are obviously about the hamstrings stretching, but they are also restorative in the sense that the head is brought below the heart.
- Furthermore, if you examine where these two postures are located in the ashtanga sequence at the very least, you have just completed the process of increasing the blood flow to the heart by performing five surya namaskara A and five surya namaskara B.
- Now you’ve turned it on its head and gone in the opposite direction, which is connected with the parasympathetic nervous system, to restore balance.
- “These two asanas are quite beneficial in the initial stages of the purifying process.
- In addition to working on all of the internal organs of the belly (Udara), they also focus on treating constipation (Malabaddata), which is a key role in the accumulation of toxins in the body, which can lead to the onset of disease.
- The liver and spleen are tonified, and the urethra is cleansed as part of the procedure.
- — Pattabhi Jois, quoted in Lino Miele’s book on Astanga Yoga.
- Personally, I’m not sure where this is coming from or what it is founded on.
- Some technical terms and medical issues are used, which gives the impression that some sort of investigation was conducted at some time.
However, to the best of my knowledge, no study or findings have emerged from the scientific or medical community. It’s feasible that, over time, we’ll be able to demonstrate that these are correct. Let’s see what happens.
Technique and restrictions
What could possibly go in the way of our properly completing a standing forward bend, you might wonder? It’s possible that you’re thinking about your hamstrings. Undoubtedly, tight hamstrings might make it difficult to go smoothly into our standing forward bend. To be more specific, stress anywhere along the back line of the body can have an effect on forward bending. The hamstrings, calf muscles, gluteal muscles, and/or erector spinae muscles may be causing you difficulty in this position if you’re finding it difficult to stand in a forward bend when standing.
- So, what should we do?
- The primary objective in standing forward bends is, of course, to apply pressure on the hamstrings to lengthen them.
- This may perhaps be a contributing factor to the large number of people that come to this site in quest of sit bone pain.
- The manner in which we modulate the pressure in our hamstrings becomes critical in this process.
- Keep them on the straight and narrow?
- Overall, I advise students to practice in a manner that distributes pressure evenly across their hamstrings, rather of having the strain concentrated more on one of the attachments, or ends of the hamstrings, as seen in the image below.
- When you are in padangusthasana, you will grasp the big toes with two fingers and a thumb once you have reached the position.
This second version is a little more difficult since more hamstring length is necessary in order to be able to place the hands below the feet in this position.
Instead, use your arms to lengthen your spine and make it appear longer.
Yes, you read that correctly: you should relax your abdominal muscles.
By relaxing the abdominal muscles (which might be more difficult the tighter your hamstrings are), you will be forced to employ deeper muscles in order to complete the exercise.
The psoas is the hip flexor that comes to mind as being the most powerful of all of them.
When the abdomen contracts, the body will attempt to flex the spine to compensate.
When the abdomen is more relaxed and the psoas is more engaged, the hip flexion becomes the predominant motion that occurs in the body.
You have the ability to make adjustments.
If you’re a little closer, but you have to bend your knees to get there, then leave your knees bent, but use around 25% of your effort to intend to straighten them when you get there.
Once you’ve gotten into your standing forward bend, pay attention to where your weight is falling.
Experiment with transferring part of your weight forward even further.
Finally, take a moment to relax your head and neck.
Of course, this is happening without our knowledge.
Standing forward bend, despite the fact that it is generally regarded a fundamental position, may be both easy and complex at the same time.
Balance between involvement and relaxation is required while standing in a forward bend.
Are there any components of those postures that you find more difficult to complete? Those are the things to which you should direct your attention and interest in order to continue developing your standing forward bend.
Top 5 Benefits of Forward Folds
That moment in a yoga session when your teacher instructs you to “Fold forward and grasp opposite elbows” is one of my favorites. “Do you want to shake your head yes and no”? I’m in the same boat. Having the hips, hamstrings, calves, and cervical spine released in the middle of a challenging sequence is such a wonderful sensation. It allows the body to regenerate and prepare for the next pose. In the event that this sounds familiar to you and forward folds are absolutely on the menu at your local yoga asana restaurant, you might be interested as to why your body is so enthusiastic about them.
1. Forward folds stretch the entire backside of the body – from head to heels.
Numerous yoga gurus considerPaschimottanasanaone of the top four poses because it opens the entire backside of the body at once – from your heels to your calves, to your hamstrings to your hips, and all the way along your entire spine to the tips of your fingers – and because it opens the entire backside of the body at once. This position, like other forward folds, strengthens and stretches the spine, allowing it to move more freely. Forward folds help to relieve stress in the neck, upper back, and lower back by bringing the shoulders forward.
2. Forward folds soothe the nervous system and encourage introspection.
Imagine that the spine serves as the lord commander of our neurological system, with the zillions of nerves in our body reporting into it. Forward folds open up the space between each and every vertebra, allowing more blood to reach those billion nerves in the process. This not only allows them to accomplish their jobs more effectively, but it also helps to calm the system. Yoga practitioners may redirect their focus inside – both physically and emotionally – by calming the nervous system and removing themselves from the stressful flight or fight response.
3. Forward folds tone and stimulate the internal organs.
Increased circulation to the abdominal organs, such as the spleen, pancreas, liver, intestines and kidneys, is achieved by folding the body forward. As a result, digestion is improved, and metabolism is stimulated. Is there anyone who would want to say Amen?
4. Forward folds increase circulation to the pelvic organs.
Backbends can help to reduce some of the frequent problems associated with this time of the month since new blood is brought to the uterus in this position. Increased circulation to the pelvic organs may also be beneficial in alleviating some of the symptoms of menopause. Infertility, impotence, and lack of sexual desire can all be alleviated by increasing circulation to this region. Many yoga teachers prescribe it for mothers who have recently given birth in order to aid in their recuperation.
5. Forward folds calm the mind and cool the body.
Don’t forget about the amazing feeling that forward folds provide, which we discussed at the beginning of the article. I believe it is 70 percent due to their capacity to relax the mind and chill the body, among other things. An interruption in forward fold during a very vigorous flow is analogous to receiving a bolt of cold water at the end of a shower. When your head is below your heart, new oxygenated blood may flow to your brain, reviving you in time for the next segment of a challenging series of moves.
Yoga asanas such as forward bends are not only necessary for a well-rounded (pun fully intended!) yoga practice, but they also provide several health benefits for your entire being – mind, body, and spirit.
We’d be interested in hearing about your favorite forward fold. Are you a fan of Janu Sirsasana? Is Uttanasana your favourite posture? Otherwise, is Paschimottanasa a must-do at the end of every session on your mat? Let’s put it to the vote!
Deeper Forward Folds and Deeper Backbends in Under a Minute
To be honest, forward folds and backbends are really popular in yoga. Not many yoga courses are required to witness other yogis pretzeling into a Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) and putting their nose between their knees in order to be entertained. In another scenario, you may believe that everyone in your yoga class is capable of relaxing their trunk into their legs in a Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) – everyone, that is, with the exception of: you There is also the yogi next to you who is bending his or her spine like Bendy Wendy from the movie Cobra (Bhujangasana).
The range of motion in the joints that are involved is also quite important.
However, while it will take time for your muscles to become more flexible, here is a single cue that can help you get deeper into your postures more quickly by expanding your range of motion right away:
1. The Secret to Deepening Your Forward Folds
Practicing forward folds, such as the standing front fold Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), allows you to stretch your whole back, from your upper and lower spine to your hips and legs. Considering that most of us spend our days sitting, this is an excellent approach to reset your body and stretch your hamstrings rather of keeping them short. In addition to being useful to your muscles and joints, forward folds also massage the abdominal organs, which aids digestion and helps to promote overall health.
However, while some of you may find forward folds to be extremely tough poses that place a great deal of strain on your lower back and the backs of your knees, when done correctly, they may actually help you release tension in your lower back.
1.1. What Actually Prevents You From Deepening Your Forward Folds
The hip flexor region, or more specifically, one specific hip flexor muscle: therectus femoris, is the limiting element that keeps you from experiencing deeper forward folds in your practice. Therectus femorismuscle is a portion of the hip flexors and the quadriceps muscles, among other things. Specifically, it starts near to the anterior hip capsule, more specifically, at the anterior inferior iliac spine (AIIS) and anterior section of the acetabulum, to be more specific. Acupulum is a cup-shaped portion of the hip bone that connects the thighbone (femur) to the hip joint.
The insertion of therectus femorisis at the top of the shinbone (tibia), together with the other quadriceps muscles, is referred to as the tibial tuberosity.
As a result, this strong hip flexor muscle is dependent on the position of the hip as well as the position of the knee in order to exert its influence: While it is at its most strong when the knee is flexed, it loses substantial force when the knee is extended, or locked.
Because of this, you will be unable to enter into a deeper forward fold or get the full benefits of positions such as Uttanasana (cobra pose).
See what a difference it makes when you bend your knees instead of keeping your legs straight: Maintaining your knees bent in Uttanasanawill provide you with additional space to do a deeper Forward Fold pose.
1.2. One Thing That Helps You With Deeper Forward Folds
So, how can you put this knowledge to use in order to go further into your Standing Forward Fold, for instance? In order to address this issue, we must first examine what occurs in your pelvic region and lumbar spine while you performUttanasana: The weight of your upper body and spine pulls on your sacrum in the direction of the load, which is forward and down in this case. When doing the pose with tight hamstrings and keeping the knees straight and locked, the hamstrings will draw the pelvis down, similar to how a rope would pull the pelvis down when performing the pose with loose hamstrings.
However, if the knees are bent, the pelvis can tilt forward, allowing the spine to bend forward from the hip joint, rather than from the lumbar spine, because the hamstrings are not pulling the pelvis down and the pelvis is free to tip forward and follow the movement of the sacrum when the knees are bent.
- This will reduce the amount of tension placed on the muscles and ligaments that surround them.
- Forward folding should be initiated largely by pelvic movement (pelvic dominance) rather than by movement of the lumbar spine in the ideal situation (lumbar dominance).
- Make sure your pelvis is in the appropriate position by allowing your sacrum to sink deeper into the rear of your pelvis and moving your tailbone closer to your pubic bone before you begin straightening your knees.
- For those who suffer from tight hamstrings, this will relieve a significant amount of stress in your hamstrings.
- Given that appropriate and healthy technique is required for each yoga position, we have created this booklet highlighting the fundamental yoga alignment principles to ensure that your yoga practice is both safe and efficient.
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2. How to Practice Deeper Backbends With Ease
In order to dive further into your Standing Forward Fold, for example, how can you put this information to work? When performingUttanasana, we must first examine what occurs in the pelvic area and lumbar spine, which is a prerequisite to answering this question. The weight of your upper body and spine pulls on your sacrum in the direction of the load, which is forward and down in most cases. If you have tight hamstrings and you bend forward in Uttanasana while keeping the knees straight (and locked), the hamstrings will act like a rope, pulling the pelvis down.
- While standing with your knees bent, your pelvis will be free to tilt forward, enabling your hip joint to bend forward rather than your lumbar spine.
- A consequence of this is that both the sacrum and pelvis can shift in the same direction.
- Spino-pelvic rhythm is the term used to describe the interplay between the movements of the pelvis and the lumbar spine in relation to one another.
- Making yourself aware of the spino-pelvic rhythm can assist you in understanding why you may enhance the range of motion in your hip and pelvis by keeping the knees bent initially as you go into Utthanasansanaand, as a result, experience deeper forward folds.
- By pushing your hands on the back of each knee to offer some resistance, you can keep them from being locked back into place.
- It is no longer an issue of flexibility, but rather of using the proper technique while doing deeper forward folds.
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2.1. Why Deeper Backbends Are Not a Matter of Flexibility
Essentially, the same logic that stops you from experiencing deeper forward folds is at work in this situation: A joint lock occurs in the shoulder as a result of fully extending the elbow, which eventually inhibits your capacity to move into a deeper backbend in Bhujangasana, for instance. Observe the following with your arms completely outstretched in front of you: Because of this, your shoulders have a limited range of motion. The range of motion, on the other hand, is increased when the elbows are bent.
- Because of this, your pelvic range of motion rises when you bend your knees, which is comparable to the reason why your range of motion increases when you bend your knees.
- This group includes muscles such as the brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps brachii.
- The longbiceps brachiimuscle is a brachii muscle that extends anterior to the upper arm bone (humerus) from the shoulder blade (scapula) to theradius, which is one of the two lower arm bones.
- This implies that it passes through both the shoulder and the elbow joint, and it restricts shoulder mobility when the elbow is extended fully.
- Consequently, as you move into Cobra, start with bent elbows and pull the upper arm bone back into its socket.
- This will immediately increase your range of motion and allow you to have a more intense backbend sensation.
2.2. Deeper Backbends Without Compressing Your Spine
Despite the fact that you may be concentrating on deeper backbends, your main concern should be to minimize compression in the lower back region. If you have this problem, you can also benefit by bending your elbow to unlock your shoulder joint. You should avoid hyperextending – or even totally extending – the elbows in some poses such as Bhujangasana since the power caused by the hands pressing into the mat will be directed towards your lower back, which is something you want to avoid. Aim for a direct path of power that travels through the long axis of the forearm and the upper arm, then through the shoulders and only then through to the trunk and pelvis.
- However, what is the most effective method of decompressing your spine?
- If your hip flexors are very tight, you may have the idea that they are restricting the mobility of the pelvis and, as a result, creating a sensation of compression in the lower back when you progress into Cobra, for example.
- What method will you use to do this?
- You may do this by bending your knees.
- Then, using your pubic bone, draw your navel towards your spine and suck it in.
- If this is too much information to take in at once, you can either re-read these alignment suggestions later or just download ourebook on yoga alignment secretsas a fast reference tool to help you with your alignment issues.
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3. Why the Struggle With Flexibility Is Over
The problem is that locked joints have an affect on your range of motion in nearly every asana. Consider whether there is any yoga posture in which you do not require the range of motion in your pelvis or shoulders. Apart fromSavasana, which is a posture in which you do not move at all, there aren’t likely to be many poses that come to mind. In addition to restricting your ability to go deeper into forward folds such asUttanasana or deeper backbends such asBhujangasana, joint locks put undue stress on your hip and shoulder joints as well as the muscles that surround them if you attempt to compensate for this restriction by over-stretching the muscles, such as by pulling yourself into Uttanasana or pushing yourself too far up into Cobra.
- Aside from that, locking your joints may potentially result in hyperextension of the joints.
- Over time, repetitive hyperextension can cause discomfort and damage – and, in extreme cases, may necessitate surgical intervention.
- This will preserve the joint by distributing the weight to your muscles rather of having your knee or elbow do all of the effort of keeping you up, as would be the case otherwise.
- Consequently, increasing the range of motion in your joints throughout your yoga practice will allow you to achieve deeper forward folds and deeper backbends as a consequence of your efforts.
- And who knows what else?
4. How to Dive Deeper (Into the Topic)
Interested in learning more about this and other common alignment issues? Check our ourInside Yoga Alignmentprogram, which walks you through some of the most basic yoga poses while dispelling a number of commonly held misunderstandings about yoga alignment. Interested in learning more? You includes Bhujangasana, so you may develop not only your bends but also your understanding of numerous positions – there will be more than one AHA! moment, we guarantee it. TINT’s Inside Yoga Alignment strategy will help you learn more about yoga alignment from the inside out.
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