What I see happening a lot in poses like forward fold is people just hanging like a rag doll, which is fine for a moment. However, if you truly want to progress in your forward bends then your forward folds (like all poses in Yoga) need to be active. When I say "active" in poses, I am speaking on static motion in still positions. For example, if I'm sitting in a front split and my hips can rest on the ground... I'm not just sitting there chilling (that's how your muscles get cold while in the posture and are more susceptible to injury), I am isometrically squeezing my legs/thighs towards my center in a smooth pulsing manner. My joints aren't moving, but I am doing isometric exercise. That is being active in a pose. So, if your forward folds haven't gotten any easier, scan your body and make sure all the appropriate muscles are engaged and active. I like to call this going through my posture checklist. Now, let's take a look at what exactly is on this checklist for a forward fold.
When going through my Dos and Don'ts checklist while in a pose, I start from whatever part of my body is connected to the ground and work my way up. Inhaling the energy up and exhaling rooting down, finding stability and comfort.
1. In a wide-legged forward fold (pictured above) make sure your toes are angled slightly in and heels slightly out. Pigeon-toed if you will, and be diligent with pressing through the edges of the feet, all the way up the legs.
2. Do start with a half lift. Inhaling.
3. Do hinge at the waist, feeling your belly engage and pull in as you slowly lower. This makes space for what's next...
4. Do rest belly on/towards thighs, or in this wide-legged case, through the thighs.
5. Do keep your spine long.
6. Do active work of having your chest reaching towards the ground.
7. Do bring the hips more forward, and distribute the weight evenly in the feet.
8. Do contract your quads to help lift the kneecaps and straighten the legs. If hamstrings are really tight, it is okay to bend the knees slightly as long as the entire leg is active.
9. Your gaze can be in line with the neutral position of your neck or even behind you. In the picture above my head is actually up because my big and beautiful headwrap was in the way of me actually folding lol. So I moved my neck to a comfortable position where I had the freedom to keep extending my spine and reaching my chest down, while hinging at the waist.
1. Don't have your feet turned out.
2. Don't tuck your chin into your chest to fold. This makes more rounding in the upper back.
3. Don't hug shoulders by ears.
4. Don't forget about your core.
5. Don't rock weight back into heels.
6. Don't just reach behind you with your arms
Feel what it is like to do an active pose, starting with your forward folds. Then incorporate this static movement into all the postures you find yourself "resting" in or holding for extended breaths. Let me know in the comments below if by adding some of these activation cues you feel your folds have become deeper!
Have fun bending humans and as always,
Grow With Your Flow,