In yin, there are all of these fun other names for the poses. Don’t ask me why, because I honestly don’t know. In the case of a seated forward fold pose – rather than Paschimottanasana which means “intense stretch pose”, we call it caterpillar. So let’s learn how to bend like the caterpillars do, shall we?
Find a comfortable seat with the legs extended out in front of you. Engage the feet and flex the toes toward the ceiling. On an exhale, begin to slowly move forward toward the legs. As you lower, think about reaching the chest toward the feet to elongate the lumbar (low) spine.
2. Once you find a good amount of sensation, pause and breathe. Stop at the first surge of sensation rather than diving into a destination (ie. the toes, forehead to legs, etc.). When you do feel ready to settle in, allow your head to hang heavy. I used a block for a few minutes before lowering down further. Your feet can relax and your upper back can round.
The point of the posture is to find resistance and breathe through it. Rushing beyond your sensations is not only physically unsafe but it’s robbing you from the true experience of release.
Rolled blanket under the knees | If you have knee sensitivity or extra tight hamstrings (like me!), you can support your body by bringing a rolled blanket or small bolster under the knees. This will allow the knees to bend a bit so that you don’t stress the muscles as you fold forward.
2. Folded blanket under the hips | If your low back is injured or pained in any way by this pose, sitting onto the very edge of a blanket will help to properly tilt the pelvis so that you can find a little more forward motion. You can elevate yourself as high as you need to.
Releases commonly tight areas of the body: hamstrings, knees, back
Enhances mobility of the spine (when done properly)
Gentle compression of stomach which helps strengthen the digestive organs
Betters kidney function
Stimulates the urinary bladder meridian (spine)
Calms: forward bends are known to create a sense of calm, helping practitioners to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which levels the heart rate and creates a sense of peacefulness in both the body and the mind.
USE CAUTION: Contraindications for this posture include…
Vertebral issues in the cervical spine (neck). Be sure to support yourself using props so you are careful not to strain these already sensitive joints.
Numbness. If you start to feel tingly, please be sure to back out of the pose until this numbing sensation ceases. You do not want to put pressure on your nerves in this way as it will damage functionality over time.
HOLD: 3-5 minutes, depending on your own personal needs. Come up very slowly from this posture (as in any yin pose). Allow your spine to lengthen back up as slowly as it descended downward.