One of my regular clients asked me about a cue I use on the reg . . . a little squish in the knees. The forward fold is the go-to yoga pose and possibly the easiest, most complex pose of the bunch. Forward folding is the neutral gear of the yoga canon. Done well, it releases hamstring tension, lower back tightness, and on perfect days, I can feel my entire spine crack up the line.
Indeed, I cue it over and over and over. It might be the first time or the hundredth time, but eventually, one of my clients approaches me and asks for clarification.
Forward folding good. Knee locking BAD.
If you’ve hit the Youtube channel or caught one of my classes, you know that the ‘traditional’ yoga teacher will ask you to stack your shoulders over your wrists or fully extend your arms and legs. They may not mean for you to lock your joints up. I’ve never heard any instructor outside of the Viniyoga tradition specifically address it. That leads to hyperextension and resting of the body weight on your joints. FUCK THAT!
Someone sent me a snippet of Gisele Bündchen showing Jimmy Fallon how to do plank pose. I hesitate to even link it, but there it is. Nevermind the fact that she has zero body fat (yes, I hate her just a little bit). Or that there is a photo of her doing sirsasana (supported headstand) in a bikini clearly resting her body weight on HER NECK. She demonstrated to Jimmy how to do plank with her friggin elbows hyperextended and her knees locked.
She ACTUALLY cues stacking shoulders over wrists at ninety degrees!
THIS IS WHY I HATE MOST YOGA INSTRUCTION!
My client asked me to give him some one-on-one help with the forward folding. This is a long time yoga practitioner who has been coming to my classes for a few years. He simply couldn’t figure out the cueing.
I had him bend over with his hips against the wall. He struggled. His brain convinced him he would fall. So, we sat with our feet against the wall in staff pose (dandasana). I walked him through the micro bend in the knee. I blew his mind. He couldn’t believe how tight his hamstrings were.
I recommended he work with that position for a bit. I recommended he bend his knees a little deeper during his practice or in another yoga class.
A couple of days ago, he came to me. “Is my entire body supposed to be killing me?” Yes, yes it is.
Moving past habit and making change is transformation or something shit like that.
When we make paradigm shifts in our body, we’re talking complete physical transformation of the way your muscles and skeletal structure move together. After practicing uttanasana (forward fold) the same friggin’ way for over a decade, you can expect some complaints from the cheap seats when you change.