Utthita Hasta Pādāngusthāsana (with support of chair or with a belt)
Adho Mukha Svānāsana
Parvatāsana in Virāsana
In standing forward extensions, focus on creating extension through the length of the spine. This extension and elongation, begins with a steady foundation in the feet, firm active legs, freedom in the hip and pelvic area. Out of all of these aspects the spine can ‘pour’ down from out of the pelvis and greater openings can be experienced throughout the length of the spine.
Deepen and refine your experience of the forward extensions by exploring the following:
Use your shoulders: In uttānāsana, fix the hands onto the mat and gently attempt to drag them forward. If you can’t reach the floor, grasp the lower legs or backs of the knees and attempt to pull the hands forward.This draw the upper body deeper into the pose. Use the grass of the toes in Pādāngusthāsana and drawing the hands upward from under the feet in Pāda Hastāsana similarly.
Use your legs: engage the quadriceps to straighten the knees. A cue for activating the quads is to lift the kneecaps towards the pelvis. This helps to stretch the hamstrings more and create more length through the lumbar spine.
Use your hips: In uttānāsana, firmly press the feet into the mat and then gently attempt to drag them apart (without actually allowing them to move). This is a cue for activating the deep muscles of the hips. These muscles allowing that extra millimeter of forward bend. Explore how this action of drawing the feet apart, without moving them, feels in
Pādāngusthāsana, Pāda Hastāsana, Parsvōttānāsana, Prasārita Pādotānāsana and Adho Mukha Svānāsana
Engage your abdominals to release your back muscles more: Gently engage the abdominals in forward bends like uttanasana and feel the effect. A cue for this is to draw the navel towards the lumbar spine. Feel how this action gives an added support to the low back. The lower abdomen ‘hollows’ towards the spine and reciprocally relaxes the low back muscles.
Remember to go slowly and gently with these actions. Be mindful of not creating tension. The actions help us to focus our minds while we are in the pose, all the while creating deeper openings within the body.