Forward Folds: Anytime, Anywhere
I can confidently say that one of the reasons I am so drawn to yoga, aside from all of the amazing spiritual and mental benefits you receive, are the forward folds. There is nothing better than waking up early when you body is tight and hinging from the hips, or after a long day of work, to let your whole spine open up. It is a very relieving feeling for me. They might not feel good for everybody, especially those with back problems (but we can work with that), but they are amazingly beneficial to your whole body, mind and spirit. And the other perk? It's an accessible asana that you can do anywhere, at any moment of the day.
Uttanasana, standing forward bend, is one of my go-to postures when I am looking for physical and emotional release. This posture lengthens the spine, which decompresses everything, and opens the whole back line of the body including hips, hamstrings and calves. This posture is also great for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Although this posture can heal so many ailments, we can't forget about the importance of alignment. Even in the middle of a stressful day, I make certain I am mindful of my anatomy; otherwise we can't receive the benefits that this great shape has to offer. Here are a few things to keep in mind::
+If your hamstrings are super tight, be sure to keep a soft bend in your knees when folding over (this is a good thing to do even if you are not super tight)
+Be sure to bend from the hips and not from the waist
+Use your core when folding (belly up and in)
+Most importantly: USE YOUR BREATH! Inhales give you space and help to lengthen, exhales, give you depth... we often forget this one, and in my opinion trumps all.
There is a reason why yoga is so beneficial to all systems of the body. You can see immediate results from using breath and movement together. Whether it's a small shift in mood and energy, or you have changed something physical. Forwarding bending is one of those things that we should do every day as a reminder to slow down and go inward, even just for a few moments.
PS:: A great anatomy book to reference is Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by H. David Coulter.