Most yoga classes will include one or more forward bends. There are different kinds, and we do them because they create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression, and help in releasing the lower back muscles.

They look simple, but I believe present just as much as a challenge as one of those pretzel like yoga postures. Make sure you are warm and the muscles prepared through some gentle movements before starting on a standing forward bend. For someone with no back issues, then the instruction to roll down releasing vertebrae by vertebrae should present no problem. However, I prefer to suggest that instead forward bends are done by first keeping the back straight, and hinging from the hip, rather than the waist. Come down as far as you can with a straight back, keeping the legs active with a slight bend in the knee.

That encourages the lengthening out process and the engagement of the muscles in the front of the body. You will find a point where you can come down no further with a straight back. Then, and only if your back is OK, should you curve and release down, to a point where you can rest your hands on the front of the shins, on blocks or the floor. You can also fold the arms, and gently let go. Don’t force the movement.

Bending from the waste and taking a nose dive down puts more load on the lumbar disks and the lower back muscles. This can cause strain in a tired or vulnerable lower back. If this applies to you, just stop at the straight back position, or even try this first holding onto the back of a chair or with hands on the wall as you straighten out.

Keep the head and neck in line with the spine throughout, and focus on allowing the hamstrings to lengthen as you relax down towards the floor. When coming up, try putting a little bend in the knees to engage the leg muscles and push down into the feet. Feel you are leading from the chest, and using the strength of your lower body including the core to come back up to standing. Your abdominal muscles should support your spine and lower back as you come up.

We’ll do some more on this in our class this coming week.