Forward Fold Safely in Yoga with Back Pain

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A forward fold is a great way to help relieve tension and pain in your back. In a previous post, we looked at ways to approach backbends safely in yoga when dealing with back pain. As yoga is meant to be a balanced physical practice, in this post we will provide you with some effective forward folds for your back pain. These yoga poses will especially benefit you if your back pain is the result of tight back muscles. The point of these yoga poses is to feel a gentle stretch in the back. If you feel like you are straining your back, ease off a bit.

Seated Forward Fold

  1. Start seated with your legs extended out in front of you. If you have tight hamstrings and round through the low back in this position, sit on a block to free up your hips.
  2. Take an inhale and reach your arms up towards the ceiling. As you exhale reach forward with a long spine.
  3. Grab onto whatever is available: your big toes, your ankles, your calves. Be mindful not to hunch the shoulders and/or round out the upper back. Keep your spine in one line even if it means you can not bend as far forward.
  4. If you feel resistance in your hamstrings, bend the knees as much as you need to in order to release them.
  5. Every inhale, reach your sternum up and forward. This is to bring more length into your spine.
  6. Every exhale, use a bit of arm strength to pull yourself deeper into the forward fold. Instead of trying to get your head to your knees, think of decreasing the space between your belly and your thighs.
  7. Take a few moments at the end of the pose to let the entire upper body go passive. Let the head hang down so the neck gets a gentle stretch.

 

Single Leg Forward Fold

  1. Start seated with both legs extended out in front of you. Bend one knee and place the sole of your foot to the opposite inner thigh. If you have tight hamstrings and round through the low back in this position, sit on a block to free up your hips.
  2. Inhale and reach your arms up overhead. Pivot your torso to face the extended leg. As you exhale reach forward towards the foot of your extended leg.
  3. Just like the other forward fold, grab onto whatever is available: foot, ankle, calf. Again, keep your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears. Be mindful not to round through the upper back.
  4. You should feel a stretch down the side of your back that corresponds with your bent leg. Try to let your inhales expand that part of your back to deepen the stretch.
  5. Every inhale, reach your sternum up and forward toward your extended foot. This is to bring more length into your spine.
  6. Every exhale, use a bit of arm strength to pull yourself deeper into the forward fold. Instead of trying to get your head to your knees, think of decreasing the space between your belly and your thigh.
  7. Take a few moments at the end of the pose to let the entire upper body go passive. Let the head hang down so the neck gets a gentle stretch.

 

Standing Forward Fold

  1. forward fold yoga back painStart standing with your feet hip-width apart. Starting at your head, roll your upper body down into a forward fold.
  2. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to release the hamstrings. If you have tight hamstrings, you may find your belly and thighs touch which is okay.
  3. Use your middle and index finger to scoop up the insides of your big toes. Take an inhale and reach your sternum towards the front of your yoga mat.
  4. Exhale and release your chest towards the floor. Use the strength of your arms to gently pull yourself deeper into the forward fold. Your elbows can flare out towards the sides of your yoga mat.
  5. Be mindful to keep your shoulders lifted away from your ears. Do this by sliding your shoulder blades down your back.
  6. Every inhale, reach your sternum up and forward to create more length in your spine.
  7. Every exhale, use a bit of arm strength to pull yourself deeper into the forward fold. Keep your neck relaxed.
  8. Take a few moments at the end of the pose to let the entire upper body go passive. Let the head hang down so the neck gets a gentle stretch. You can grab at opposite elbows and sway side to side if that feels okay for your back.
  9. To come out of the pose, slowly roll up one vertebra at a time. If your back feels a bit tender, walk your hands up your legs for additional support.

 

Always take your time coming in and out of forward folds. If your back feels sensitive, do the passive variation of each pose to avoid straining your back. Over time, you should notice less tension in your back so keep a consistent practice. Happy stretching!

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