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The forward bend is one of the most basic movements in Kundalini yoga. It signifies bowing, not just physically, but spiritually too, showing reverence and devotion.
The forward bend is the first movement that has an exhalation attached, which requires a controlled release of breath as we bend. It is the basis of many other movements used in Kundalini Yoga such as leg stretches and standing forward bends.
In order to perform the forward bend movement safely and effectively, read on.
Step One – The Starting Position
Start by sitting comfortably on the floor with your back straight, and your legs out in front of you a few inches apart. You can sit on a pillow or cushion so that your hips are higher than your knees if you struggle to straighten your spine.
Before beginning the forward bend, apply the Mula Bandha, also known as the Root Lock, by locking the muscles at the base of the spine, contracting in the Navel Point, and engaging the pelvic floor.
Then flex the feet by pulling the toes back towards the body, contracting the legs in a supported way. Undertaking all of these preparations allows the forward bend to occur safely, but also ensures that the action has the desired effects on the body and its energy.
Step Two – Begin the Fold
Start by straightening the spine, opening up the Heart Center, as you bend forward to reach your toes.
If your mobility will not allow you to reach your toes with a straight spine, try hooking a yoga strap behind your toes and holding onto that instead. This will give you resistance to pull against, and may even help with your mobility as you practice more.
Use the arms to pull your chest forwards, essentially towards the toes. Make sure you keep applying the Mula Bandha, with your legs and feet flexed. You should feel a pull in the back of your legs, but the spine must remain straight with the Heart Center opened.
Step Three – Relax Into It
At this point it’s time to let gravity do the work. Keeping your body taught, allow gravity to pull your upper body towards your legs, still only bending at the hip joints. Pull gently against your feet, allowing your belly to sink into your thighs and your head to find a comfortable position.
Hold this alignment with a straight spine, being mindful not to pull further than comfortable. Take a moment to check that you are keeping your core tight and engaging with Mula Bandha. The more you practice this movement, the deeper your forward bend will become, but do not rush this process.
Step Four – Release
To release from this forward bend, inhale and press your legs into the floor. As this inhalation expands the lungs and ribs, you will feel the force of this pushing your body back up straight, with the lever motion of the legs against the floor.
Be sure to keep the core muscles engaged the whole time, even during the release.
As with anything, the forward bend takes practice. Not only will you find that flexibility improves, but also the strength of the core and legs will also benefit. Keep this goal in mind, but do not live by it. When you enjoy the journey life never feels like a chore.