As a yoga instructor, when I mention yoga to friends and others, I often get the “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible. I can’t even touch my toes!” Never fear! Yoga isn’t all about touching your toes, or even having the flexibility of ElastaGirl, from “The Incredibles”. If you’ve read my other articles, you’ll know that the physical aspect of yoga is only a small fraction of what yoga really is. Like I’ve said before you’ve gotta start where you’re at and give yourself grace and gratitude for your efforts. Out of all the yoga poses for beginners the forward fold can be challenging to many. Especially if you have set yourself up to think you’re not flexible. But, I use this one often in my sequences, and so do many other instructors. Just know that flexibility isn’t set in stone and you will get better.
Where to Begin? The Standing Forward Fold
This one could feel like a challenge for those who can’t touch their toes. But, It only gets easier from here, depending on your perspective. Don’t fret, though, if you can’t touch your toes, the standing forward bend or, uttanasana, can be easily modified to suit you.
The most important part of uttanasana is to engage your low abs to protect your low back. So, start with your feet hip-width apart; engage your low abs; softly engage your legs but don’t lock your knees.
Hinging from your hips, elongate your spine and start to fold forward just as far as you start to feel a little stretch on your hamstrings.
How to modify if you can’t touch your toes, yet:
From here you have many options. If you’re just missing your toes by just a couple of inches, try touching your ankles, shins, or slightly bend your knees a little more (or a lot more, depending on how you feel).
You can also use yoga blocks or stacks of books, a chair, or a coffee table to help bring the ‘ground’ up to you and give you more stability and comfort as you bend forward.
Yoga Poses for Beginners The Seated Forward Fold
Depending on your own particular body’s comfort level, you might benefit from practicing the standing forward fold backed up to the wall, when you just want to practice and stretch your hamstrings.
If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can always give the seated forward fold a try! Almost all the same tips and instructions go for the seated version as the standing version. Again, the most important part is to protect your low back whenever folding forward by engaging your low abs.
The great thing about the seated version, called pascimottanasana, in Sanskrit, is that you really can focus on your hamstrings without worrying about balance AND, you can use my second favorite tool: the yoga strap. You can, of course also use a long belt, scarf, sheet, leash, whatever floats your boat and you have handy! Remember to only fold as far as you feel a stretch on your hamstrings and it’s not painful or uncomfortable.
For both the standing and the seated versions, when you shift your focus from touching your toes to stretching the backs of your thighs, you can feel better about yourself. Because, after all, it really isn’t about whether or not you can or cannot touch your toes. It’s about steadiness and ease; strength and flexibility; the balance and union/harmony between the two. Shifting your focus to what is actually important, in both yoga and in life, can help us live fuller, more joyful lives. This is yoga on and off the mat ?
Enjoy your joyful life!
Cybele Cerchio ?
The Joyful Life Blueprint
P.S. Let’s get to know each other. Here’s my story, what’s yours?