The Safe Way to Forward Fold in Yoga
Tight hamstrings and too much sitting are major contributors to low back pain and increased risk of injury. This tightness and immobility pulls on the lumbar region and eliminates the natural curve of the low back.
When you lose this curve, called lordosis, it’s dangerous. The discs, which act as cushions and spacers between the bones of the spine, are more prone to slip, rupture or pinch a nerve. It’s for this reason that doctors and OSHA videos tell you to lift heavy objects with your knees bent.
Landmarks of Safety
To protect your low back in Uttanasana, tip your sacrum (the bony plate at the back of your pelvis and the base of your spine) down towards your head.
Your sitting bones and bum will look higher than your spine when you do this. Use your hand to feel, or look at it in a mirror.
This position works with gravity to lengthen your spine towards the ground. If it rounds up towards the sky you are decreasing lordosis and putting your back at risk for injury.
How To Modifying Your Pose
Here are three immediate ways to make your Forward Fold safe:
Separate Your Feet
Classically Uttanasana is done with feet together, but separating them will make the pose safer. Over time, as your legs and back become more limber you can move your feet closer together.
Bend Your Knees
You may need to bend your knees, a little (or a lot), in order to create lordosis in your lumbar spine. Work your legs to get your spine in; push your thighs back as if you’re sticking out your butt.
Place Your Hands On Blocks
If your lumbar region is rounded up higher than your pelvis, never let your hands and spine dangle unsupported. Place your hands on blocks (or your legs) to bring added support and increased safety.