Fold into Cross-Legged, Standing Forward Fold, Uttanasana, in order to stretch and lengthen through the hamstrings, hips, and the IT or Illiotibial Band (the thick band of fascia, running laterally down the leg, from the hip to the knee). This version of Standing Forward Fold is great for athletes that have tight muscles in the legs. It also brings relief to women that wear high-heeled shoes by stretching the supportive muscles of the ankles and calves.
To do Cross-Legged, Standing Forward Fold: Bring the feet to stand hip-width distance. Bring the palms to the hips. Cross the right foot over and around the left foot, so that the legs and feet are crossed. (When the feet are closer together it may be a little more challenging to balance. Feet apart are easier for balance but may pose more intensity for a stretch on the IT band.) Keep the right leg bent.
If this is enough sensation, stay standing upright. In order to fold forward, take an inhale breath to prepare. On an exhale breath, fold the torso forward with a flat-back, rather than rounding through the spine. Bring the fingers to the floor or use a block for support. (Athletes on the playing field, can use a ball for support.)
Completely hang the head and neck, in order to release tension in the neck. On an inhale, lift half-way in order to extend the spine long and lengthen. On an exhale, draw the forehead closer towards the ground. Draw the shoulder blades down the back and draw the low-belly inward, towards the spine. Gently shift the weight forward towards the ball-mounds of the feet to equally distribute the weight in the feet. Stay here and breathe in the pose for 3-5 full round of breath (one-round is a complete inhale and exhale) or try the variation below.
Option to walk the fingers gently towards the right side and hold for a couple rounds of breath. Slowly walk the fingers back to center and then towards the left side. Become in-tuned to the breath, and mentally visualize the exhales moving into tight areas in order to help “soften” and release tension.
To come out of the pose: Bring the palms to the hips. Keeping a flat-back, slowly rise to standing. Repeat on the opposite side. Notice how you feel after taking the time to mindfully breathe, move and release tension and tightness in the body and mind.
Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.
Christi Iacono, owner of In Rhythms Yoga
www.inrhythmsyoga.com to see the full schedule, instructors and for private lessons.