Here’s my favorite story about how I have used wide leg forward fold to heal a person’s back.
About two years ago, I went in to see my doctor for my annual checkup.
I was the first patient of the morning.
The nurse who came in to take my blood pressure (96 over 60 last time it was checked) was hobbling around and obviously injured.
“May I help you with your back?” I asked her.
Even though it was ostensibly my turn to be the patient, I had the nurse perform wide leg forward fold with her arms outstretched and hands on the examining table.
I instructed her to hold the pose for five minutes – long enough to where she could traction her spine, pull length out of her compressed disks and create freedom for the trapped nerves in her lower back.
She had indeed been suffering severe low back pain and unfortunately her twice weekly adjustments at the chiropractor had not solved the problem.
She hurt so bad it was hard for her to stand up to do her job.
So, I’m chatting with her and talking through how to do wide leg forward fold, also known as Prasarita Padottanasana among us yogis, and the doctor walks in.
The doctor saw that I was helping her nurse, so I encouraged the nurse to keep lengthening her spine as the doctor began my examination.
After about five minutes, the nurse stood up with a smile on her face.
She felt so much better the doctor gave me my visit for free!
I came back a few days later and taught the nurse a program about how she could heal her back with yoga. Some of the exercises I taught her are outlined in this blog you can read for yourself.
I can find people everywhere who need to be helped by yoga – even at my doctor’s office!
I am including a couple of other photographs in this article of wide leg forward fold variations.
The one of me on the beach would be the goal pose – i.e., what you would want to end up looking like.
Here is a photo of a gentleman who herniated disks in his lower back. As you can see, at this point he was not able to tilt his tailbone to the sky. His form is not perfect but he is still working on lengthening his spine.
Here he is again in another variation.
Sometimes I get creative and use the tools on hand as props to help people.
In this case, we were in a barn, so I took the ropes that ordinarily would tether a horse while they were groomed. I tied the ropes together, threw a blanket over the ropes and had my client fold over the ropes with his arms outstretched onto a small stool.
Why is wide leg forward fold so effective for relieving low back pain?
- This pose creates length and space. Creating length and space is job No. 1 when you have hurt your back.
- When you have low back pain, more than likely the disks are compressed, which places pressure on the nerves that run through the disks. That’s why you have to create length and space first.
- This pose helps to open the sacrum and the sacroiliac joint, just like the Don Tigny mobilization I wrote about in the previous blog.
- Your hamstrings stretch, your hips open and unhealthy curves, such as in scoliosis, can begin to unwind.
Here is how you can perform wide leg forward fold to lengthen your spine:
- Stand with your feet very wide – wide enough that your ankles are under your wrists.
- Turn your toes in as if you were pigeon toed.
- Press down on the outside edge of your legs and pull up on the inside edge of your legs.
- Put your thumbs in your groins.
- Lift and spread your chest.
- Fold forward.
- Now, if your back is hurt, place your hands on a stable object about hip height in front of you. This could be your bed, a kitchen table or as in the case of the nurse an examining table or chair.
- Tilt your tailbone towards the ceiling as you pull your belly towards your spine.
- Keep lengthening your spine as much as possible all the way from your fingertips to your tailbone.
- Breathe and relax! If you hurt really badly, I recommend holding the pose for about 5 minutes to give your back time to unwind.
What is healing? Healing happens when you take the time to understand your body mechanics so that you can help yourself when you or a family member gets injured.