One of the most beneficial things when learning new skills is looking at our mistakes. When we fail, we have the opportunity to learn and grow. Recently, I did a tutorial on Uttanasana, but in this post, I want to discuss 5 common forward fold mistakes. And, how to fix them!
Forward folds have never been an easy pose for me. Naturally, I’m a back-bender. So poses like camel and bow come more natural to me. Therefore uttanasana is a pose I have to work at letting go. Believe me, I’ve made HUGE improvements over the years and hope someday to get my ribs to thighs!
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Forward Fold Mistakes
As I mentioned, this pose was not a natural pose for me. With my deep back arch it takes a few repetitions to fully let myself fold. And, I’m not the only one struggling so let’s discuss the 5 forward fold mistakes I see most often in yoga classes.
Not hinging from the hips
By far the most common error I see is people folding from their mid-upper back rather than hinging at the hip crease. This can have LOTS of causes from tight muscles to not knowing where the hips are! For those wondering, your hip crease is at the bikini line. We should be folding the pelvis over the thigh bones (femurs), rather than rounding the spine over the pelvis.
Still unsure? Use a chair! Wedge the top of the chair into your hip crease, then fold the PELVIS over the chair. Almost like you are trying to push the top of the femur’s back as the torso comes forward and down.
Using a chair is a great way to ‘get’ the hinge, rather than fold fail. Another way is to take your index fingers to the crease of the bikini line and “trap” them as you hinge, between the thigh and pelvis.
Not using support
For those that hinge at the hips (see above) not supporting the hands/arms isn’t a huge deal. However, if you round the back then add support. Why? It’s a lot of pressure to put on the discs, and muscles of the back. Most rounding comes from not hinging, or people too eager to get their hands to the floor.
Instead, bring the floor up to your hands. Elevate on yoga blocks, or if need a chair. Much better to support, than end up straining. Yoga poses shouldn’t be painful, or strainful. Yes, I just made up the word strainful, but seriously just use support and let the effort go!
Lifting the head & cranking the neck
Our bodies are made of curves. And especially our spine! Our spine has complementary curves. The lower back and neck are two such curves, they like to do the same thing. In Uttanasana your lower back should round slightly, surrendering to gravity. Likewise, so should your head and neck.
Another of the forward fold mistakes is cranking the neck to look at the floor or to the front of the mat. Instead let the neck and head release and relax. Not only is it more comfortable, you may find you are more able to surrender to gravity rather than fight it.
Feet together is not just one of the forward fold mistakes, but a mistake in so many yoga poses. Especially for women! There are many reasons why this is not optimal, but I’m just going to share two. Firstly, standing with the feet together gives us less stability. Secondly, and honestly IMO the most important, it may irritate the SI joint.
There are NO RULES in yoga alignment. We are all made differently. If you have wider hips allow yourself a wider base of support. Separate the feet slightly “hip distance apart”. A good way to test this is to march on the spot. Then, after 10 seconds, STOP! Wherever your feet end up try that distance.
Forcing, rather than surrendering
One of the biggest lessons I learned in my own personal journey in forward fold was just surrendering into the pose. I was so eager for progress I wasn’t present in the pose. Instead, I learned to just breathe into the pose.
Release, breathe, surrender and repeat. Remember what my mentor Judith Lasater says “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s what you learn on the way down”.
- Are you making any of these common errors in Uttanasana?
- Do you find yourself reaching in this pose or surrendering?
- How easy is it for you to just ‘let go’ and be IN the pose?
I’ve just started doing a bit of yoga and found this really helpful!
I actually make a lot of these forward fold mistakes so thanks for sharing these.
It is so important to learn and grow from our mistakes. Thanks for sharing how people can fix their forward fold mistakes.
I have very little flexibility and know it’s because I need to lose weight, but it’s good to know these tips for when I do give it a go x
michelle twin mum
This is so good, really easy to understand and helpful. Thanks, Di. I just need to get into the habit of doing a little each day now. Mich x
MRS NAYNA KANABAR
A very useful tutorial for forward fold, I will definitely try this method as it looks like I am doing it wrong all this time.
Sim @ Sim's Life
A really interesting post, odd how we never really give much thought into the process of bending over. I have never tried yoga, but hopefully I will look into it one day! Sim x
What a great post, this is something I know I do wrong and usually end up with back ache
I’m only at the beginner’s level in yoga so I should definitely be aware of these mistakes as it is easily done.
That is a very interesting and detailed post!