Do you absolutely love that moment in a yoga class when your teacher says, “Forward fold and gently grasp opposite elbows. Shaking our head no to let go of everything and then yes to all possibilities”? It’s one of my favorites as well because it’s such a fantastic feeling to take a break in the middle of a difficult sequence releasing the hips, hamstrings, calves, and cervical spine and resetting before the next asana.
Are you curious why these feel so good or more importantly why these are so good for the body? Here are some of my favorite benefits of forward folds that make them so awesome and such an integral part of our asana practice.
1| Forward folds or forward bends (as they are sometimes called) stretch the entire backside of the body—from head to heels.
Out of the thousands of asanas out there, many yoga gurus consider Paschimottanasanaone of the top four poses because it opens the entire backside of the body at once – from heels to calves, to hamstrings to hips, and all along the entire spine through to the tips of your fingers. This pose, like most forward folds, builds strength and flexibility in the spine. Forward folds release tension in the neck, upper back, and lower back.
2| Forward folds soothe the nervous system and encourage introspection.
The spine is our main neurotransmitter highway to our nervous system, with all the nerves in the body reporting into it. Forward folds create space between each and every vertebra, increasing circulation to all parts of our nervous system. This not only helps them do their job, but it soothes the system. By soothing the nervous system, and getting out of the stressful flight or fight mode, yogis can turn inward—mentally, physically and spiritually.
3| Forward folds tone and stimulate the internal organs.
By folding forward, you increase circulation to the abdominal organs like the spleen, pancreas, liver, intestines, and kidneys. This then improves digestion and stimulates metabolism. That’s why it’s almost like you want to say “Awwww” as you are folding…it’s feels yummy!
4| Forward folds increase circulation to the pelvic organs.
Forward bends can diminish some of the common complaints when it’s that time month as fresh blood flows to the uterus in this pose. Also, increased circulation to the pelvic region can assist in providing relief during menopause. Increasing circulation to the pelvic area can also help with infertility, impotence, and improving sexual desire. Many yoga gurus recommend it for women after childbirth to encourage healing.
5| Forward folds calm the mind and cool the body.
Finally, forward folds are truly amazing as they are an automatic cooler of the mind and body. During a pretty intense flow, a pause in forward fold is like taking a polar plunge. With your head below your heart, fresh oxygenated blood can rush to your head and rejuvenate you for the next part of your asana sequencing. Folds calm the mind by reducing anxiety, worry, depression, and insomnia.
Forward bends aren’t just essential to a well-rounded asana practice, but they do a whole lotta good for your entire being— mind, body, and soul. Join us all month long for a more focused look at forward folds in our Foundations classes and keep an eye out for their incorporation elsewhere on the schedule!
At LiveURYoga, we want you to grow safely in your practice and we are taking a more proactive approach to providing a structured growth opportunity for all who come. Each month in our Foundations classes we will have a focus of movement or philosophy to ensure we are growing as a community (Sangha). We will offer specific instruction on our focused subject and of course provide a flow of movement to educate you within the class.