Bend your legs! .
As an ex dancer this phrase was blasphemy to me on so many levels before I started Yoga. But now as a teacher it is all I say in many of my classes. .
I often see people struggling through poses which require a large degree of hamstring flexibility by rounding their back and straining in their shoulders. All in the pursuit of keeping their legs straight. .
In downward dog the opening of the shoulders is ignored because of a lack of hamstring flexion. .
In forward folds the back is overly rounded and the shoulders scrunched and towards the ears in an effort to reach the floor or their toes .
But when I ask them to bend their legs and allow their chest to connect with the top of their legs, begin to straighten until the point they feel they have to chest lift off and then HOLD IT HERE, they have all said they still feel a hamstrings stretch, and even more so they feel more relaxed in their back and shoulders and can hold the pose with more ease and breath. .
The act of bending the legs in your stretches DOES NOT mean you won’t build flexibility. In many cases it allows more flexibility to be gained because you will be able to relax and breathe into the pose meaning your body will be less tense and strained. .
Now I’m not saying you should be bending your legs forever. You can still practice each posture straightening the legs. And even while bending you should be active in the muscles aiming to straighten your legs as much as you can while maintaining this connection between your chest and upper thighs. You can also play around with bending and straightening the legs while holding the pose, for added active mobility work. But this is just one tip that could help make those forward folds and downward dogs a little more accessible!! .
Bend your legs! .