Oh, the little gems I pick up every time I go to the mat.
This week is like no other…
I’ve talked about forward fold and it’s “sister”, half forward fold in the past. I so frequently move through these postures that I’ve forgotten my initial physiological investigation (really?) from way back when. This week’s practice, again, shot me back to my thoughts on what is happening between these two poses.
Recall - okay - guessing you haven’t read the post before. Let me recap…
My hypothesis is that the half forward fold is used to activate the golgi tendon organ via Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching. The hamstring stretch increases after each subsequent half forward fold as you move back into a forward fold. Still no answer to be found on my end if this is the case.
Nonetheless, in this week’s practice I was given the gift of another option in the forward fold position.
Adriene’s ("Beach Body Yoga") Balancing Ocean Flow was a sight to be had. The practice was located on a lovely patio looking out onto the ocean. Not clear where it was but absolutely a gorgeous view. If you don’t feel like practicing, watching the waves may be just all you need!
We worked through three variations of the half forward fold, primarily changing the placement of the hands:
1. The half fold with the palms of the hands on the thighs, upper arms parallel to the torso to find length in the spine.
2. The palms stay lower and rest on the shins. Still encouraged to lengthen the spine yet the arms are given more space and the hamstrings are taxed, or shall I say stretched a little bit more.
3. The final version is what left me to ponder even more. Adriene directed me keep the hands on the floor yet lift the hips by plantar flexing the feet or shall I say in more entertaining words, coming up on my tippy toes.
I almost stopped the video so I could keep trying the half forward fold from the tippy toes. I had never done this version before. Adriene alluded to the fact it was more of an ashtanga version so I’m left guessing it is more dynamic and thus likely found in an ashtanga practice. Not sure on that one either…
But it did get me thinking about my hypothesis above. AND it made me realize (duh?) that forward folds are not just about the hamstrings but the calf muscles too! Essentially, coming up on the toes contracts the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) and in effect the same mechanism of the golgi tendon organ is working. Contract the muscle to then relax and let it be stretched further in the full forward fold.
Care to chime in on my hypothesis? Feel free to leave any and all insight below in the comments!
I’ve got so many questions and a few answers. More to learn,
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.