There is no better pose to learn the lesson of release and letting go than a forward fold. The more you surrender in this pose, the deeper you will go. The pose gently stretches the ligaments of the back and brings suppleness to the spine. Paired with deep conscious breathing, it also gently massages the organs of digestion and aids in elimination.
To get into the pose, start sitting on the earth with your legs outstretched in front of you. Feel your sitz bones root into the earth and then lengthen the spine tall up through the crown of the head. Begin to hinge forward at your hips, until you feel tension in your hamstring muscles. At that point, let your spine round forward and release all the way to the crown of the head to allow your neck to relax as well. Once you are in the pose begin to become aware of the breath moving deep into the body and let go of all resistance on the exhale. Hold for 3 – 5 minutes. Note: it is important not to push or pull yourself into the fold, but rather allow the body to naturally sink into the fold as you slowly release tension in the body.
If you feel tightness and restriction from simply sitting on the floor with your legs outstretched, you can put a folded blanket or pillow under your knees before you begin the fold. Elevating the hips, by placing a blanket or cushion under them can also be supportive. Another modification is to put a chair over your legs and let the forehead rest on the seat of the chair as you fold to allow more relaxation in the spine and neck.
If you are experiencing sciatica pain or feel your hips rotating backwards in this pose (meaning you aren’t able to hinge forward at all), start with legs up the wall resting here for 3 – 5 minutes.