Featured Series: Mini Apply For Fig Leaf Ahead Fold

14 Apr 2018, 8:39pm -

Health Advice

- About Back Health
by Baxter

Ever since I recently started sharing the Fig Leaf Forward Fold in my classes (both Nina and I wrote about this way of forward bending in Life Changer: Bending Over Differently and Time to Rethink Standing Forward Bend), I have been getting encouraging reports back from students who have been taking this pose into their home yoga practices and, more importantly, into their everyday activities. They have generally noted that it feels easier for their lower backs when they go into, hold, and come out of a forward bend. I had a student report back that she was able to use Fig Leaf Forward Fold for a two-hour gardening stint without the typical back pain she usually gets.


Some practitioners have reported back that they have modified the pose to address their body’s particular needs. For example, a friend of Nina’s—speaking of gardening—needed to keep her feet wide apart to do this forward bend while gardening for her job. So Nina thought a mini practice to prepare you for Fig Leaf Forward Fold would be interesting to our readers. Here is a short practice I created to lead you to the pose.

1. Reclined Pelvic Rock and Roll, 6 rounds.

This reclined vinyasa gently warms up your hips up for the hip-hinging action you will use in Fig Leaf Forward Fold.

Start in Constructive Rest pose. On your inhalation, rock your hips towards your feet, gently arching your lower back away from the floor. On your exhalation, roll your pelvis back and down, gently touching your lower back to the floor.


2. Dynamic Knees to Chest, 4 to 6 rounds.

The actions you take in this pose—bending your hips and knees to bring your legs into your chest—are both actions you need to do in Fig Leaf Forward Fold. Start in Constructive Rest pose and stretch your legs long on the floor. On an inhalation, bring your arms up and back overhead. On your exhalation, bend your right leg in toward your chest as you bring your arms forward and hold onto your shin with both hands, giving your shin a gentle squeeze. On your inhalation, stretch your right leg out and down to the floor as you sweep your arms up and back overhead. On your exhalation, repeat with the leg movement on your left side. When you’ve completed your rounds, return to Relaxation pose (Savasana).


3. Lunge Pose (versions 1, 2, or 3), 6 to 12 breaths.
In this pose, your front leg takes two actions you need for Fig Leaf Forward Fold: your front hip bends deeply as you also bend your knee while keeping your foot on the ground. And as you move into the post, you get to practice the hip hinging action.

Start by placing a blanket crosswise in the center of your mat. For this sequence, begin by coming into a kneeling position on the blanket. From there, step your right foot forward about two feet and, hinging from your hips, tip your torso forward and place you hands on the floor beside your feet or on blocks next to your feet. Next, stretch your left leg back behind you, turn the toes of your left foot under, and lift your left knee to come into Lunge pose.

Encourage your spine to lengthen from your tailbone to the crown of your head to create a neutral spine, and if you sense your back is rounding, place your hands on a higher height of block until you can feel the spine coming parallel to floor. To come out of the pose, release your back knee down to the mat and return to a kneeling position. SeeFeatured Pose: Lunge Pose for information on the variations and more details.

4. Mountain Pose, classic version, 1 to 2 minutes.
This pose increases your awareness of what the alignment of a neutral spine is and is the starting position for Fig Leaf Forward Fold.

Start by standing with your feet at least hips-distance apart, with your toes pointing forward. Contract the muscles around your upper leg bones and lengthen up from your tailbone to the crown of your head. Notice the feeling of your spine in this pose so you can retain that feeling when you do the next two poses. See the post Featured Pose: Mountain Pose for more details.

4. Powerful Pose (any version), 6 rounds for dynamic version, 6 to 12 breaths for static version.
This pose is almost a half version of Fig Leaf Forward Fold, as it requires you to bend your knees and hinge your hips while keeping your spine in a neutral position. You can do the dynamic version, the static version, or the dynamic version followed by the static version.

Start in Mountain pose with your feet hip distance apart. On an inhalation, raise your arms overhead. On your exhalation, bend your knees forward by hinging from your hips. Maintain a neutral spine as you tip your torso forward in space.

If you are practicing the dynamic version, on your inhalation, return to standing with straight legs and on your exhalation, release your arms. If you are practicing the static version, come out of the pose by releasing into Mountain Pose. See Featured Pose: Powerful Pose for information on the versions and more details.


5. Fig Leaf Forward Fold, 6-12 breaths.

Start in Mountain Pose and step your feet about 12 inches apart. Keeping your back in neutral alignment, bend your knees and allow your pubic bone to move backward, hinging your hips forward over your upper legs. Fold over by allowing your pubic bone to slide through your legs, down and back. Your torso should be parallel to the floor with your hands touching the floor.

To find the right position for your legs and feet, try experimenting with how far apart you position your feet and whether you keep your feet parallel or turn them slightly out. If you cannot touch the floor with your torso parallel to it, keep practicing and gradually work toward that goal.

To come out of the pose, press firmly down into your feet and use your upper leg muscles to bring you back up to Mountain Pose.


6. Hero Pose, any version, 1 to 2 minutes.
I have chosen this as your finishing pose because it includes bending your knees with a slight hip hinge as it rests your legs and releases muscle tension created by the sequence. See Featured Pose: Hero Pose for more details.

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