When I first re-kindled my love affair with yoga, I was afraid to take flight. I could backbend until the cows came home but arm balances and inversions were a no-fly zone. Well, they say your practice shifts as you grow with it- to become what you need at that point in time. Nowadays, I take handstand breaks and my favourite thing to teach is an arm balance focused class.
Yet, I can feel a rumble in the distance of shifts to come. Scratch that, the shifts are real and they’re here.
As someone with fairly open hamstrings, forward folds were always a bit of a snooze fest for me. It was an opportunity to slack off, a “rest pose” in yoga class. Give me wheel pose or grasshopper- anything but a standing forward fold or a child’s pose. I wanted to feel, and feel lots. I went from craving a powerful, sweaty class, to a dance-inspired flow, and now-
As Mara mentioned in a previous post, we all have dark thoughts. And while we all hope for a happy ending- a day where it won’t be so hard, there will be good days and bad days. I’ve had a few bad days myself in the last little while to the point where I felt paralyzed with anxiety, and I was brought to my knees- literally. Knees as wide as the mat, big toes together, and forehead to the ground. Child’s pose is my go-to for moments like these and I will be the first to admit there have been many, many tears shed on my mat.
These are the days where sitting in meditation feels too difficult and even savasana feels too exposed.
As one of the most underrated postures, it’s time to give forward folds their credit. Sure backbends, inversions, and arm balances are prettier, more photogenic, but
there is something innately settling when you surrender your head to your heart, or your mind to your mat.
The action of a forward fold is a true action of looking inwards. I am reminded of something I was taught in yoga teacher training: our front body is our “ego” body- the part of us that is an individual. When we are proud of our achievements, we puff up our chests. We walk with our ego bodies leading the way. On the other side, our back body is our universal body- the place of connection between us and something greater. When we conceal the individual body in a forward fold, we are thereby opening ourselves up to potential, to connection, to the universe.
They say backbends are vulnerable because we leave our internal organs exposed. What they don’t talk about is how forward folds require just as much internal strength. When we look inwards, we are literally blind to what is around us, requiring us to trust that we will be protected and provided for. (On a physical level- have you ever tried to engage your core in a forward fold? If not- give it a shot. Anatomy 101- engaging the muscle groups on one side side allows the opposing muscle groups to release, so firmness in the belly allows us to go deeper in a forward fold.)
And so, while child’s pose doesn’t solve my problems, it offers me a moment to feel safe. The shape of a forward fold is one of self protection. However, whereas one may mistakenly believe that it is a posture of turning away from the world, in reality, it is one of giving in.
It reminds me of perspective- that this is part of something greater and that this too, will pass.
Once I know that and believe that- in every bone and thought in my body, I am able to pick myself up and carry on.
And that, friends, is the beauty of a forward fold.