The Fastest and Safest Way to Touch Your Toes in Forward Fold

Let’s talk about bending over. If you haven’t done yoga regularly, chances are you haven’t done a whole lot of bending over or forward stretching. This could mean your hamstrings are tight, and often this leads to the common complaint of, “I can’t touch my toes!” “Should I be able to, for yoga?” Of course not.
I’m about to show you the secret to touching your toes every time you fold forward.

Let’s do a quick experiment.
1. Straightening your legs and do a forward fold.
2. Bend your legs a do a forward fold.

Which one made it easier to touch your toes?
#2, exactly. There you go, you did it! You are now accepted into the yoga clan!
‘Nough said, end of post.

Just kidding….let me explain a few things.

Despite what many people may think, the goal of a forward fold is to stretch the hamstrings and elongate the spine, NOT to touch the toes (although it looks so nice in photos). Bending the knees allows for a deeper and safer hamstring stretch, rather than straining with straight legs and rounding the back. Bent knees also help keep the spine in a neutral position, which is healthy for proper alignment and optimal low back safety. As shown in the graphic below, we always want to strive for neutral spine alignment when going into our forward fold. “Swan diving” or “banana back” movements disengage the core muscles and therefore puts extra responsibility and pressure on the low back. The “nose dive” also disengages the core and is not healthy for the back, shoulders or chest. Any time you bed over, always go for the middle picture, the neutral spine.

TIP: When bending over into a forward fold, tighten your lower belly. This action will help prevent the “swan dive” or “nose dive” actions.
The easiest way to bend forward into forward fold is to start with bent legs and draping your chest and/or belly over your thighs (keeping the spine straight). Once you’re there, then try to straighten the legs ever so slowly to feel the stretch, while sending the hips high (not back).

Here is an example:

With practice and consistency, your forward fold will become easier and more flexible over time. As long as you keep focusing on keeping the spine as neutral as possible and bending those knees, the benefits of this position will reflect in many other areas of your yoga practice and in life.

Remember, the most important thing in yoga is…to have fun!

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to visit matsdown.com for more yoga posts!

— Julie

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