Happy December! Hope you have had a good week.
The third (and the tenth) posture in 12 pose Suryanamaskar is the forward bend or the hasta padasana (hand to foot).
• From the hasta uttanasana /backward bend or the 2nd (and 11th) posture, keep arms stretched overhead and slowly reverse the spine from extension to a neutral spine, rolling the pelvis to neutral. The feet still rooted on the floor, the legs as a unit (ankle to hip joint), move back at ankle joints, shifting weight posteriorly making adjustment for the torso to bend forward. The shoulders may be taken through an entire rotation to incorporate scapular and gleno-humeral mobility and to add smoothness and grace to the movement, while prolonging the breath out. The pelvis progresses into anterior rotation with hip flexion, while maintaining knees in neutral or minimal flexion, as the hands reach for the big toe of feet. It is important to keep the shoulders neutral and not attempt to pull oneself down through arms (shoulder protraction) or spine (by flexion) in order to reach for the floor. The movement comes from hip hinge with good hamstrings flexibility and uniform spinal curve. If the hands do not touch toes, it is alright to start by bringing hands to knees and sliding them down shin of lower legs with the knees flexed about 10°-15°.
• Muscles: Initially the transverse abdominus and multifidi stabilize the spine. The rectus abdominus and gluteus maximus contract, to bring the spine and the pelvis respectively, to neutral. The gastroc-soleus contracts with hip flexors(iliopsoas and pectineus) to move body segments and maintain center of gravity over the base of support. The quadriceps contracts to keep knee in extension and bring about reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings allowing them to stretch maximally. In the alternative position if the knees are flexed to bring hands to toes, hamstrings are active with quadriceps relaxed initially. However, it is important to slowly attempt to straighten knees by activating quadriceps.
• Breathe out slowly and steadily during the forward bend, reaching to complete exhalation at end of movement. The diaphragm flattens as it contracts and curves upwards into the thoracic cavity as it relaxes. During the breath out, the pelvic floor muscles contract assuming an upward convexity and pushing abdominal organs towards diaphragm to push air out as lungs recoil. Here the chest is compressed anteriorly, so it expands posteriorly and laterally and gaseous exchange takes place primarily in the posterior, lateral, and apical basal lobes of the lungs.
"Om Suryaya namah" (I bow to thee, one who induces activity)
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.