Paschimottanasana-Seated Forward Bend is a stretch that is common in both yoga and dance conditioning.
With this pose, yogis feel the benefits of a lengthened spine, stretched hamstrings and an invigorated nervous system while dancers receive these same benefits along with added improvements in extreme leg movements such as developpé or grand battement.
When folding forward, it’s best to maintain a “flat” back that is neither arched nor rounded. The neck should be in line with the rest of the spine. Often times, students round the back in an attempt to achieve the goal of “touching the nose to the knees.”
In fact, the best manner to fulfill that goal is to do the opposite of rounding and to hinge at the hips when bringing the body forward. In addition if one has tight hamstrings, it is more effective to bend the knees when folding. Rounding too much in the forward fold can lead to a backwards rotation of the pelvis and a collapsing of the chest over the belly which lead to intervertebral disc compression in the anterior of the spine.
Try the Forward Fold with your Flexistretcher to encourage hinging at the hips, keeping a neutral pelvis, practice pelvic stabilization, maintaining a flat back and lengthening through the legs.
SETUP: Sitting up, extend both legs in front of you and wrap the Flexistretcher center foam pad around both feet. Hug the legs together and choke up on the straps if you do not feel enough tension.
ACTION: Fold forward, with your chest toward your thighs, as you pull on the straps to intensify the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
REPETITIONS: 5 times
Actively hug the legs together and press them into the floor.
Pull up on the knees and lengthen through the heels.
Keep both hips pressed into the floor.
Maintain head in line with the spine. Think “of hair line to toes”
Keep elbow hugged into your sides and drawing back as you fold forward.
Pull hips back and down.
MUSCLES TARGETED: The hamstrings along with the gastrocnemius located in the back part of the lower leg, and the erector spinae which extends throughout the lumbar spine.
CHALLENGES: To intensify the stretch, grab hold of the metal pieces of the Flexistretcher.
MODIFICATIONS: Slightly bend both legs or bend one leg in towards your center.
DANCER FOCUS and BENEFITS:
Hinging at the hips while maintaining a neutral pelvis while achieving sufficient hamstring flexibility can greatly aid in improving and maintaining correct form when performing skills such as developpés and grand battements.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: This particular pose is not good for those with chronic back pain.
Extreme hamstring flexibility is a necessity for accomplishing movements required of a skilled dancer. This stretch is very beneficial in increasing mobility in the hip and hamstring flexibility which aids to increase the leg height in developpé front or side. Overusing or gripping of the hip flexors to developpé the leg front or side hinders mobility, strength and form. Practicing this stretch with the Flexistretcher encourages hinging at the hips without the limitations of gravity. It allows you to focus on maintaining a neutral pelvis rather than “tucking” which can help with technical mis-alignments when trying to master certain movement patterns. Stabilizing the pelvis is very important when looking to improve front extensions and keep correct form. Since the muscles that are used to lift the leg attach onto the pelvis, they will tend to produce undesired movements of the pelvis, lumbar spine and leg unless the pelvis is stabilized. Drawing focus to these key concepts in a basic forward fold will help to develop a better awareness and the ability to improve technical requirements and desired aesthetic that dancers strive for.