I’ve heard a lot of verbiage about how to do a forward bend. Most of it invokes “relaxation”, like the average Westerner knows how to do that. Today I paid attention to the experience and generated some words that do a lot more for me than most of what I’ve encountered before (although, I’m combining what I’ve heard).
Find your balance on your feet. I mean this very specifically. There are three points on the foot that we stand on. Balance is when the weight pushing down through the foot is optimally distributed (is this equal? or does the heel get a little bit extra? or maybe the bubbling springs?) among the three points, in both feet. From:
In order to have this, your legs are going to have to be situated just so (depends on your bone structure and joints and whatnot). Once you’re balanced, or to get balanced, find some tensions the release of which allows you to sink. This usually offsets the 3 pointed balance. Regain it. Repeat. (Release, Regain, Repeat) There should be none of the strain I used to associate with deep forward bending. In fact, there should really be a lot of effortless strength. That strain was all wrong. When there’s strain it seems I either need to release some muscles and stop pulling with others and/or change the orientation of some bones (legs, arms, ribs, back, hips, or whatever) to release tilt at some joint. That strain has contributed to numerous injuries in me, including knee problems. It seems that the weight of gravity pulling the upper body down combined with releasing tensed muscles and allowing the bones and muscle palintonicity to settle in equilibrium into the ground, this is the best way (see this great book, Spacious Body: Explorations in Somatic Ontology [maybe I read all this in there and forgot?]).
Covering your third eye with your big toes is not the purpose, but a desire causing blindness to the purpose. Releasing maladaptations of body to gravity and emotion and injury and disuse get much closer to clarifying the point.
A secondary effect of this approach to forward bends is that it encourages a different sense of the moment. Rather than struggle drawing to mind all the sorts of negative thoughts that, due to a long history of coactivation, have tended to accompany our awareness of struggle, we have spacious awareness, nuancing perception. We are witnessing ourselves.
11/1/12 – Also, I notice that rather than round the back on the way down, it is better to keep a straight back and bend from the waist. Common advice. Also, notice how the back muscles on the sides can be very relaxed such that there is a palpable feeling of most of the downward weight of the upper torso actually transmitting easily through the waist and down into the hamstrings. I used to think I was reaching the 90 degrees bend at the waist, but just recently I noticed it’s more like 45 degrees. I can tell by the angle of my hips.