Forward Folds With A Rounded Spine?

Transcript below of: Should forward folds be done with a rounded back?

Hey, welcome! I’m going to answer another question this month. If you haven’t submitted your own question, go to and go ahead throw one at me.

The Question:

This question comes from an unknown source. The question is, “In all forward folds, should they be done with a rounded back or forehead to knee? Are there some poses throughout the series that require chin to shin?”

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The Answer:

Since you said series, I’m going to assume that this person is talking about the Ashtanga series. But either way, we can keep it general about forward folding. Generally speaking, classical hatha yoga does use a more rounded spine. If you have herniated discs, please read this article on Practicing Yoga With A Herniated Disc.

Pashchimottanasana really translates as “western stretch” or the western-sided stretch. It’s about lengthening the entire back line of the body. If you’re doing more classical work, probably you would be doing it more rounded. Having said that, mainstream yoga these days is more like straight, long spine.

Part of the reason for that is the wrong person doing a very rounded forward bend in their spine can add pressure to the vertebrae, especially if you have a history of, or have, bulging or herniated discs. That could be a real problem.

What is forward folding about?

Generally speaking these days, forward folds are about lengthening the back of the body and forward folding and trying to isolate that movement into the hip joint as much as possible. In terms of forehead to knee, or in this case chin to knee or chin to shin, I think chin to shin is an ideal, something to work towards, as long as you’re able to do that without over-straining the back of your neck. That’s going to be directly proportional to how open your hips and hamstrings are for the forward bending itself. In other words, the further forward you go and the flatter you get, the less of this you’re going to need to put your chin down.

If you’re really round, you’re going to have to stretch and strain the back of your neck to put the chin onto the shin. It should be like everything else, a development or a process. If you start with forehead, start with forehead.

For those of you who can do forehead, then maybe you try to touch nose but make sure to pay attention to what’s going on in the back of your neck. If you can do nose, then try chin, but again don’t overdo the back of your neck just to get your chin on your shin. I hope that helps.

If you want to submit your own question, once again, Just in case you didn’t know, this book, Functional Anatomy of Yoga, which I wrote last year, answers a lot of questions similar ones to this even. Go ahead and get a copy if you don’t have one already. Alright, take care.

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