People say to me all the time, “I can’t do yoga. I can’t even touch my toes.” It always brings this image to mind of a kind of crazy keystone cop arriving at a yoga class and going one-by-one to check people in standing forward fold. Not touching your toes, out you go.
I’ll let you in on two secrets. First, there is no yoga police. I promise. Second, most likely no one else is even looking at you because they are too busy worrying that they can’t touch their toes either. (Who even started this crazy idea?) There is a third secret. You practice yoga so you can touch your toes, not the other way around.
Even aspiring to touch your toes if you do practice yoga is selling the pose of standing forward fold a bit short. Don’t be fooled, this is not an easy pose. It’s a big stretch for your hamstrings and inner thighs. The level of difficulty adjusts to where you are. That is what is most important here.
It is worth saying this here, and I if I were to get a tattoo this phrase would be one I’d consider engraving on my body. Yoga is here to serve you. That means that the pose, and yoga in general, is your path, not a form of torture.
What does yoga serving you look like in a standing forward fold? First, you can bend your knees as much as you like. The more you bend them, the less stretch on your hamstrings. As you straighten your legs, it gets more intense. You decide.
Regarding what you can touch if your fingers do not meet toes nicely, there are a few options. You can bring your hands to the front of your shins, or right above your knees. Or just let them dangle. It’s fine. If you are moving into an L shape as the next posture, the placement of hands on your shins or above the knees is a useful connection and helps lengthen the spine.
The other option is that it is not cheating to bring the floor closer to you. You can use a yoga block right in front of your toes for your hands to rest on. It’s like having longer arms.
The other consideration in this pose is to hinge at the hips. Try and avoid rounding the back and let the head hang down with a soft neck as if warm honey were pouring out of the top of your head. Enjoy it in the space for a few breaths. Like honey, it takes a little time for everything to release.
p.s. Here is a list of benefits of forward standing fold but please don’t get freaked out about the picture on this site. Secret #4, very few people can do what this woman is doing, kissing her knees. Just work where you are. Join Adriene to give it a try.