**ONE MINUTE YOGA – FORWARDS BENDS**

Forward Bends can be wonderfully relaxing and make you feel pleasantly introspective. However, they can also strain or injure your lower back, especially if the backs of your legs are tight. So practise with caution.

Learning to practise forward bends correctly means that you must pay close attention to the mechanics of your body. The crucial muscles to understand are the hamstrings, particularly in their interactions with your pelvis.

When the hamstrings are pushed to the limit of their flexibility, they rebel and avoid further stretching by either bending the knee or extending the hip. The tighter your hamstrings are, the more likely it is that this will happen. And that can be bad news for your back. It is important, therefore, that you keep your back straight as straight as possible during forward bends.

This pose stretches the back of your body and compresses the intestine in your lower belly. It is a wonderful pose to stimulate bowel function, relieving bloating, constipation and reflux, and it creates space for all the organs to flow and function.

Gravity and sitting for long periods can cause your torso to compress, which slows down circulation. This pose compresses and then releases the lower belly, creating a flush of fluids to a typically stagnant area of the body. It can really help to get your bowels moving.

Step-by-step technique

  1. Sit on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and your legs straight out in front of you. Turn your top thighs inwards slightly and press them down into the floor. Press through your palms or fingertips on the floor beside your hips and lift the top of your sternum towards the ceiling as the top thighs descend.
  2. Draw your inner groins deep into your pelvis. Inhale and, keeping your front torso long, lean forwards from your hip joints, not your waist. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. If possible take the sides of your feet with your hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended; if this isn’t possible, loop a strap around your soles and hold it firmly. Be sure your elbows are straight, not bent.
  3. When you are ready to go further, don’t forcefully pull yourself into the Forward Bend, whether your hands are on your feet or holding the strap. Always lengthen your front torso into the pose, keeping your head raised. If you are holding your feet, bend your elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor. Your lower belly should touch your thighs first, and then your upper belly, then your ribs, and your head last.
  4. With each inhalation, lift and lengthen your front torso just slightly. With each exhalation release a little more fully into the Forward Bend. In this way your torso oscillates and lengthens almost imperceptibly with the breath. Eventually you may be able to stretch your arms out beyond your feet on the floor.
  5. Stay in the pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lift the torso away from your thighs and straighten your elbows again if they are bent.
  6. Then inhale and lift your torso up by pulling your tailbone down and into your pelvis.

Contraindications and cautions

  • Asthma
  • Back injury: only perform this pose under the guidance of anexperienced teacher.
forward-bends

Beginner’s tip

Never force yourself into a Forward Bend, especially when you are
sitting on the floor. Often, because of tightness in the backs of the legs, a beginner’s forward bend doesn’t go very far forward and might look more like sitting up. Be patient.

Modifications and props

Whether you are experienced or not, it’s a good idea to sit on a folded blanket in this pose, and if you are a beginner you need to hold a strap around your feet. If you are very stiff you can place a rolled-up blanket under your knees.

Benefits

  • Improves digestion
  • Calms the brain
  • Helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the spine, shoulders and particularly the hamstrings
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries and uterus
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis.

 

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For your top tips on creating optimal health in the mind and body, read Chris James new book –‘Mind Body Cleanse’ by Chris James (Penguin Vermilion, £14.99). Available from Amazon.

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