A wonderful relationship between directional breathing and movement is revealed in forward bends – especially in seated forward bends. It is not my intention to delve into the expansive realm of seated forward bends at this point. I do want to help you to create an opportunity for effectively experiencing bending. To do so I will indulge in a few points that will hopefully make seated forward bends accessible to you. I invite you to avoid pushing your limits and choose soft variations. If you push your limits in establishing the basic posture, you will create obstacles that will hinder you from experiencing the core of this post – directional beathing and forward bending.
- Find a starting seated position that is good for you. If your flexibility is limited you can sit on a chair – that will be excellent for the intents of this practice.
- If you are sitting on the floor – bend your knees.
- Find a correct placement for your arms.
When you have a comfortable seated position. Take a few minutes to practice just the movement of the arms together with directional breathing (the movement is similar to what we did when we introduced the idea of movement and directional breathing, except that now it is in a seated position). Remember – inhale is a downward movement of the breath, exhale is an upward movement of the breath.
We begin the forward bend from the arms raised position – this means that we have just finished inhaling (and raising the arms). Therefor, the forward bend begins on an exhale. The exhale begins in the abdomen – and so does the movement. The first part of the back to bend is therefor the lower back – while the rest of the back and the arms remains stretched straight. Then as the movement of the breath progresses UP the back – so does the movement. When the lower back can no longer bend, movement begins in the mid-back, then the upper back and finally the neck – as the weight of the head pulls it down.
Coming back up is a reverse process – but with one important difference. Going down, you were assisted by gravity, going up you will be moving against it – it will require more effort. We come up on the inhale. The inhale begins in the chest – and so does the movement. First to move are the arms – and when they come up parallel to the head (in your correct arm placement), the head begins joins the movement. Then the upper back begins to straighten. As the inhale moves DOWN the back – so does the movement. Only after the mid-back has straightened, and the breath has filled the chest, movement finally reaches the lower back.
You may want to combine the two movements – raising & lowering of the arms and bending forward into one sequence. This gives the arms and back a chance to rest – maintaining a soft quality of practice. The sequence (demonstrated in the animation below) is 2 breaths long. You can repeat it numerous times.
Bending in this way works the back effectively. It fulfills what my teachers describe as “a little movement in many places, instead of a lot of movement in only a few places”. If practiced effectively it has potential for improving both both flexibility and strength. It is supported by the breath and it develops breathing stamina. The directional breathing together with the directional movement activates the energetic system – opening up even more options and variations of practice.