The power of a forward fold

It has been a long time since I’ve been at a tech session – three months, in fact.  (I was curious, so I looked at my attendance log, and was a bit surprised when I realized it had been that long!)  I feel like March and April were plenty busy with yoga-related tasks; and then I remembered, oh yeah, my mentorship!  That took a lot of time in March and April.  And, oh yeah, the Karma Yoga project!  That took a good chunk of time, too.  So I haven’t been a complete slacker; I just set aside the tech sessions for a bit in order to make time and space for these other items in the program.

But now those other tasks are complete, so now I’m back to the techs.  And tonight’s session was a terrific one to get me back into the tech groove.

The topic of this evening’s tech was forward folding.  Specifically, standing forward folds and seated forward folds.  The teacher began by explaining how truly important forward folds are – in yoga, certainly, but also in life.  Think about it: How many times a day do you bend over?  (Standing forward fold)  And how many times a day do you sit down?  (Seated forward fold)  If you don’t think you do either of these movements very often, I invite you to try and go a day without them.  Heck, try to go just one hour without them.  It’s pretty amazing how truly critical these movements are.

The teacher continued stressing the importance of proper forward folding by talking through not only the frequency with which we engage in these movements, but also the benefits we can realize by engaging in these actions correctly both in our lives, and in yoga asana.  In our every day lives, folding forward properly can help a person heal from an injury, can help protect against further injury, and can help prevent future injury.  (Proper forward folding can also help maintain the body if a person is presently healthy.)  In yoga asana, forward folds help organize energy in an up-and-down pattern (specifically, up-and-down our back body [from our toes, up our legs, past our booty, up our spine, past our neck, all the way to the crown of our head]).  Energy that is organized in a clean up-and-down line (versus energy that is all scattered every which way within us) helps us feel much more physically calm, emotionally balanced, and overall grounded and stable.  (Energy that is chaotic in our bodies makes us feel, well, chaotic in all aspects of our lives – from our thinking minds to our emotional senses to our physical being.)  [So, think racing heart, inability to mentally focus, impatience, etc.]  So for what might seem like a pretty ‘simple’ action (i.e., bending over or sitting down, these seem like no big whoop), it’s actually a pretty powerful one.

So it’s important that we learn how to fold forward properly.

Which I now know how to do.  :)

For yogis who like knowing the details of asana practice, here’s the quick step-by-step of how to do a proper standing forward fold.  (And if you don’t care so much about these details, feel free to skip past these bullets and on to the next paragraph; I won’t be offended.)

  • Put the feet hip-bone-width distance apart.
  • Put a micro-bend in the knees.
  • Ensure the natural small arch of the low spine is present.  (I.e., ensure the spine is in neutral.)
  • Hook the thumbs under the armpits [“farmer’s position”].  (This ensures the shoulders go down the back, and the heart/chest opens.)
  • Begin to slowly fold forward from the hips, using the heart (not the chin) to move out-and-down.  Don’t force the ‘down’ (gravity will take care of the down); focus on and encourage the ‘out’.
  • Fold as far as you can while keeping a neutral back.  Once the back begins to experience flexion (i.e., ‘rounding’), the integrity of the forward fold has been lost.  If the back begins to round, move back up a bit until the neutral spine can be recovered.  Stop folding forward at the spot where the back begins to round, and breathe there for a few inhales and exhales.

I’ve been practicing “correct” forward folding for the past six months now, so today’s tech session was a nice refresher/reminder of key concepts I really do know.  What was particularly cool for me about tonight’s class was that, when I was called on to fold forward, my body absolutely knew what to do without my brain needing to ‘think’ about it; and my body’s internalized knowledge and inherent wisdom is what I listened to – not my mind.  (That’s a pretty big deal for me.)  It was also awesome for me to see how much stronger I have become in the past six months!  Correct forward folding takes a LOT of abdominal/core strength; and I had the strength to fold forward with integrity, and to come back up to a standing position equally smoothly and strongly.  When I had finished folding forward and standing back up (and impressing some of the other students in the class, which, I admit, did make me feel pretty good), the teacher made a comment along the lines of, “Now, this pose might be just naturally easy for some people, so don’t get discouraged if you struggle…”; to which I looked the teacher right in the eye and said, “Oh no, this pose isn’t ‘naturally easy for me’ – I have worked for this pose.”

And I have.  I have worked day in, day out, slowly building strength, and balance, and flexibility over the past year.  Every single morning I get up, and do sit ups, and push ups, and sun salutations.  And once a week I engage in a kick-my-butt yoga class.  And once every other week I sit on a wood floor for several hours, listening to yoga teaching, and building my back and ab strength in the process.  And every single day I eat right, and walk, and meditate, and do my very best to treat myself well, and take care of this precious resource I have been given (indeed, this amazing body with which I have been gifted); and in tiny little increments (like grains of sand and drops of water), I have begun to accumulate benefits, one tiny unit at a time; until, over time, I have a small bucket of sand, or a small glass of water.

Tonight’s class was a wonderful opportunity for me to see, to really objectively experience, precisely how far I have come from where I was a year ago.  I had the opportunity to see my increased strength, to witness my increased emotional stability and confidence, and to feel the true sense of calm within me that is becoming less the exception, and more the rule.  Yeah, forward folds are amazingly powerful.

Stef

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About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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