Yogic Tip: Seated Forward Bend to Relieve Stress
Seated forward bend is a great way to stretch the back of the hamstrings and the life nerve (sciatic nerve). We hold a lot of emotional tension in the back of the legs but by stretching in this way, we can release it. The posture is relaxing and great to practice before bed to let go of some of the day's stresses and sleep more peacefully.
Yogi Bhajan also encouraged women to do seated forward bends several times during the day as a self check in, an emotional assessment. If the hamstrings are tight, you may have internalized some stress. Bend forward and relax. Yogi Bhajan said a woman can raise her Kundalini just by relaxing.
Tips on practicing seated forward bend:
Before you start, sit up with your legs stretched forward, feet flexed. Lengthen your spine as much as you can keeping your chin slightly tucked in, your chest out. If you have trouble keeping your spine upright - an indication that your hamstrings are tight - try sitting on a folded blanket or rolled up yoga mat.
Move from the hips as you start to bend forward. Lead with the center of the chest and keep the spine straight as long as you can. Let your head come down last. As you move forward, reach toward your feet. If you can grab onto your toes, do so. If you can't reach your toes, or your chest collapses when you do, hold onto the backs of your calves or behind your thighs. Alternatively, if you have a yoga strap or some pool rings, you can place them around your feet to increase your reach. It doesn't matter whether or not you can touch your toes. More important is your alignment.
Don't worry about how far forward you bend. You only have to move a little bit to stretch the hamstrings and benefit from the stretch. Try and relax in the posture, breathe deeply and with each exhale see if you can go a bit deeper. Let gravity work for you.
Hold the posture for 1-3 minutes.
Something to watch for:
People have a tendency to dive their head towards their knees, collapsing their chest in the process. In so doing, the potential benefits of this posture are lost. Think less about getting your head to knees and more about getting your torso to your thighs. And remember, with correct alignment, just a little forward movement will help you increase your flexibility.