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If you feel wobbly or you plan to stay in the pose for awhile…
Try supporting your torso and head with a bolster on a chair. Set a folding chair on your sticky mat, and place a bolster lengthwise on the chair. Bring your head and torso to rest on the bolster, and turn your head to one side. For additional comfort, place 2–3 neatly folded blankets under your arms, head, or the bolster. Widen your stance, and walk your feet back until you are comfortably supported but feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Hold for 5 breaths, turn your head to the other side, and hold for 5 more breaths.
See also Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
If your lower back is tight or you shouldn’t drop your head for medical reasons…
Try a variation at a wall. Stand facing a wall with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bring your palms to the wall directly in front of your hips. Spread your fingers wide, and press against the wall. Take a deep breath in; then, on an exhalation, walk your feet back, and bend at your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor and your legs and arms form an L shape. Keep spreading your fingers, and bring your ears in line with your biceps. Let your heart soften toward the floor, and drop your tailbone toward your heels. If you feel sensitivity in your lower back, bend your knees.
See also Simple Poses to Relieve Back Pain
If your hamstrings are tight or you can’t reach the mat…
Try bringing your hands to blocks as you fold forward. Set the blocks below your shoulders and slightly in front of your feet on a flat, medium, or tall setting. This prevents you from just hanging out in the pose. Pressing your hands into the blocks gives you feedback and more stability, allowing you to be more active as you move closer toward the mat.
See also More Forward Bend Poses
You’ll know how you’re doing in a pose by listening to the sound of your breath. It gives you immediate feedback. If your breath becomes strained or rushed, see if you can slow it down. Focus more on the exhalation, which is the calming portion of each breath. Elongate your exhalation, making it a bit longer than your inhalation. If you try this and find that you’re still unable to slow your breath, it’s time to rest. Check in with yourself, and see if you’re working too hard. Consider moving into Balasana (Child’s Pose). You don’t have to hold an inversion for 7 minutes; it can be 5 seconds with beautifully integrated breath.
About our Pro
Teacher and model Jenny Brill focuses on alignment-based hatha yoga, with an emphasis on humor. She’ll make you sweat up a storm and laugh out loud at the same time. A native of Los Angeles, she’s taught yoga for more than 25 years and is a regular contributor to several teacher-training programs. Her authenticity, energy, and mastery of fine-tuning alignment has created a strong community of devoted and fearless yogis.