~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Standing Forward Fold

March 14, 2011
Are you interested in adding a simple forward fold to your movement repertoire? Here are a few simple instructions to help you enjoy the classic standing forward fold uttanasana, or stretch of the west side:

Stand up straight and tall. Grow long in your torso, from the base of the belly up through the heart. Rest your hands gently on your lower back. Breathe. Relax. Smile.

Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale and tilt your tail upward toward the sky behind you, inviting the upper body to spill forward. Stay full in your heart as you swan dive into the clear space before you.

Dive forward just as far as is comfortable, still letting your hands rest on the sacrum behind. Each time you inhale, let the heart perk up, perhaps rising just an inch or two back toward standing. Each time you exhale, let the tail at the base of your spine reach upward, as if it were climbing the wall behind you.

If you're a typical American with tight hamstrings and a weak back, your muscles will urge you to stop before your spine even settles parallel to the ground. In this case, find your edge and stay there, with your hands still resting on your sacrum. (And remember, this forward bending action is born from the pelvis rotating over the thighbones, rather than just collapsing forward at the waist.)

If you're the noodly type, allow your heart and head to spill toward the ground while encouraging the front spine to remain long and spacious. If your head ends up closer to the ground than your hips, then release the arms earhward. Place one hand in the crook of the opposite elbow, or just let the arms hang like vines graciously toward the earth.

Wherever you end up, breathe and enjoy the wavelike action that longs to echo through your spine with each inhale and exhale. Allow the body to move and shift and respond to the oceanic waves of the breath. As you inhale the spine lengthens and rises, as you exhale, the spine spills ever more deeply toward the ground.

Keep your legs long and strong. Out of the stability of these strong roots the waterfall is born. Trace a line along the spine from the tail bone all the way through the crown of the head. Let your energy flow along this line, cascading earthward like a beautiful waterfall - sweet, powerful, sensuous, unending.

Strong legs, surrendering spine. Debris spills away like a handbag turned upside-down. Old thoughts, resentments, fears, grudges and fantasies spill out and away, littering the ground at your feet.

Feel free to spiral and slope and move, as all good waterfalls do. Shake your head, shimmy your shoulders, let your arms sway like an elephant trunk from side to side. Let go of everything unnecessary and inessential.

When the sweet sighs of relief leave you feeling clean and clear, when your brain is silent and spacious, root your feet firmly into the ground (bend your knees slightly if you like) and let the heart bloom  forward and upward, bringing you back up to standing.

Have you grown taller? Fuller? More breathable? Yes, yes, and hopefully yes. Savor the moment and enjoy the long, clear and spacious feeling the waterfall has offered as you move forward through your day.