The Posterior Stretch

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If a traditional hatha yoga instructor were to teach a student only f e postures, they would probably be the headstand, the shoulderstand, >e sitting half spinal twist, the cobra, and the posterior stretch—the deflni e forward bend. The posterior stretch can be initiated properly only after il] nutation of the sacroiliac joints; after accomplishing that, its essence m be known only if the pose is hinged primarily at the hip joints id completed with a minimum amount of spinal flexion. Although v. 1] discuss posterior stretches for students with a wide range of skills, he plain truth is that the full experience of this posture is denied even tie who lacks good sacroiliac and hip flexibility.

To do the posterior stretch, you start in a sitting position with the 1 ick straight, the knees extended, and the heels and toes together (fig. o). Stretch the hands overhead and thrust the sacral promontory for ird through the action of the psoas muscles in order to emphasize nut; in. Then, keeping the promontory of the sacrum forward, the ilia c ser together, and ischia apart, fold forward slowly from the hips. As soon s vou have reached your limits of hip flexion (fig. 6.11), bend forward in the In bar region with the aid of gravity. This movement should not be passive: it si nld be accompanied by actively lengthening and stretching the torso. Finally, as you flatten your chest down against your thighs (fig. 6.12), the sac; iliac joints slip back into a neutral position between nutation and counternul ion. In the final posture, the knees are straight, and the ankles, feet, and I are all flexed, completing a literal posterior stretch from head to toe.

Figure 6.10. Beginning position for posterior stretch for advanced students. Notice that the model starts with his hips flexed about 100° (10° beyond vertical) merely by reaching straight up with his hands.

Figure 6.10. Beginning position for posterior stretch for advanced students. Notice that the model starts with his hips flexed about 100° (10° beyond vertical) merely by reaching straight up with his hands.

beginning forward bending

The above instructions are fine for a select few, but preposterous for the average person. In the first place, when they are sitting on the floor in the starting position, inflexible beginning students begin the pose with their sacroiliac joints in full counternutation instead of nutation. They probably won't he aware of this, but they will be acutely aware and frustrated that they are already bent forward at their hips to their limit just trying to sit up straight. They also won't be veiy appreciative of the instructor who softly intones "let gravity gently carry you forward" when gravity is pulling them nowhere hut backward.

Still, an alternative is needed for those who are not flexible enough to roll forward into the classic posture, and the best is a natural sequel to one of the sit-up exercises in chapter 3. Sit flat on the floor with the knees extended, the head forward, and the back rounded. For now, at least, forget about sacroiliac movements. Place each fist in the opposite armpit, and slowly pull forward using the hip flexors (the iliacus and psoas muscles).

Figure 6.11. An intermediate position for the posterior stretch in which the hips are flexed about 130°. The model has now "bent forward from the hips" about 30° (from 100° to 130°). Even so, the lumbar lordosis has already started to flatten in comparison with the full lumbar arch shown in fig. 6.10, which is evidence for having already begun the process of bend-■ng forward "at the waist."

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