Stand with your feet together, and slowly bend forward to touch your toes.
Can you reach them?
If not, it means your hamstrings and/or lower back are too tight.
The good news is… a little bit of conscious stretching goes a LONG way.
Stretching is an essential component of both exercise and health, as it helps to maintain flexibility and range of motion in your joints. When your muscles are more flexible, the body can perform activities and exercise with the correct form and alignment; therefore, stretching also helps to improve posture.
If you set the intention and practice for just a few minutes each day, you’ll be touching the floor in no time.
In a perfect forward fold, your upper body should bend toward your legs like you’re closing a flip phone (remember those?). Both the upper and lower body remains straight, and the hinge comes directly from your hips.
There are several muscles involved, and knowing which ones need to be working can be the key to achieving a liberating and beautiful forward fold.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process:
Activate (flex) your abdomen. This creates reciprocal inhibition of the lower back muscles, signaling them to relax.
Activate the quadriceps (the front thigh muscle) to straighten (but not hyperextend) your knees. This creates reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings (anagonist to the quads), signaling them to relax deeper into the stretch. With your front body flexing, your back body can release deeper into the stretch.
Tilt the pelvis forward by contracting the hip flexors (including the psoas, pectineus, and anterior adductor muscles). Keeping the back and neck straight and the spine long, hinge forward ONLY from the hips (not the ribs) until you can no longer maintain a straight back. If you allow your back to arch, you have lost connection to the key muscle groups, and are no longer actively stretching where it counts. This will prevent you from deepening the stretch and ultimately touching the floor.
Keep your back straight and your spine long, lifting your tailbone up toward the sky. Even if you only lower a few degrees from your standing position, honor your body. Only with proper form can you achieve depth Once you reach your maximum forward fold with a perfectly straight back, place your hands wherever you can comfortably reach — on your thighs, shins or ankles — and draw your shoulders away from your ears.
BREATHE – smoothly, deeply and consciously, sending energy to all the areas that are working. With each inhale, imagine your spine lengthening and straightening even more, and with each exhale see if you can deepen the hinge of your hips to bring yourself lower toward the ground. (Breath is the KEY to deepening any stretch. When consciously utilized, it creates space from the inside out, expanding and deepening the internal body to further release the muscles.)
If you do these five steps once in the morning and once at night everyday, for five minutes each, you WILL see noticeable results in just one week.
That’s the beauty of stretching… it’s highly rewarding.
In just ten minutes a day you can dramatically increase your flexibility, and connect more deeply with your body.
We’d say that’s a win-win for everyone.