This sequence aims to increase our understanding of forward bend actions. We look at reference points we can use when attempting more forward extension, going from standing forward bend actions to seated. As in all Asana groups, it is essential to maintain integration in each pose, identify your own restrictions and capacity, and then learn to develop further.
This session starts in a simple seated pose, Vajrasana. Place a folded blanket between buttocks and heels to feel the natural lift and lightness that comes to the spine.
Taking the knees apart, go to forward Virasana. Keep a support, if necessary, between the buttocks and the heels. Notice how the spine here is able to “flow” forward. Watch how the hip bones go forward, whilst keeping a firm anchor down into the legs.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, with heels up the wall. Here the hips are more easily lifted, and the legs are straight and active which supports the free lengthening of the spine.
Now take a chair for Adho Mukha Svanasana. Placing the heels flat, but up against the wall for stability, place the hands on the chair seat and lengthen forward from the side waist, the armpit chest, the sternum.
In forward bends, it is important to keep the front of the body long, with the legs well anchored.
Continue these actions in two standing forward bending poses, using the chair.
Parsvottanasana, with the back heel to the wall. Place the hands first onto the backrest of the chair and observe the length that comes to the front body and to the spine. Now take the hands to the chair seat, as long as you can maintain that length. Otherwise, keep the hands higher. The aim is to find the length, not go lower just for the sake of it.
Prasarita Padottanasana, feet wide apart and hands on the chair seat. Feet well anchored, and the trunk elongated forward.
Sirsasana preparation takes us back to the Adho Mukha Svanasana feeling of lifting the hips upwards to lengthen the spine. The legs are important in finding the extension.
Come to sitting, with a chair and two blocks nearby.
Sit first on the edge of the chair and let the spine extend by that same downward flowing action. Height under the buttocks allows for more freedom in the hips.
Now go to Dandasana, with a folded blanket under the buttocks for extra hip release. Then extend the arms forward onto the chair seat, for Paschimottanasana. Rest the forehead to the chair seat, with added height if needed.
Notice how when you anchor the legs, the spine is freer. The head resting will bring mental quietness in the pose.
Start with the feet apart, a broader base, and then observe what happens when you take the feet together.
Try the same forward action with hands onto blocks, placed upright or on their side according to capacity. Side and front chest long.
You can now go forward with wide legs, Upavistha Konasana to the chair. Notice the similarity between this and Prasarita Padottanasana to the chair. Long through the front of the body and well anchored, grounded, in the legs, whether standing or sitting.
Now set up for Triangmukaikapada Paschimottanasana.
Use a 3 fold blanket under both buttocks. Lengthen the arms forward to the chair seat, and rest the forehead. Arms long and side chest open. Sternum forward.
This same action can now be explored with the hands on blocks.
Janu Sirsasana with the chair. This allows us to get a good turn as we bring the pelvis level. Janu Sirsasana is part twist, part forward extension.
To finish the forward extensions, set up for a simple cross legs twist with blanket support and a block behind you for the hand. This will release any holding or heaviness in the back. We will also go forward again in cross legs, and see where the session has taken us.
To finish, first lie on your back, flat, with legs up the wall at 90 degrees: Urdhva Prasarita Padasana. This will give further support and release to the lower back, as well as allow the hamstrings to stay long but with wall support, they can also broaden. Bend the knees into the chest for a few breaths before turning to the side to come up.
Now take a chair and bolster and blanket for an easy Viparita Karani.
Place the buttocks on the bolster, calves on the chair, and a blanket for the back of the head. This will soften the groins, the abdomen at the end of this session.
Then slide down, buttocks to the floor, and rest the legs onto the bolster in simple cross legs. Stay a few minutes until the breath and the mind are quiet.