Absolutely love that moment in a yoga class when your teacher says, “Fold forward and clasp opposite elbows. Shake your head yes and no”? Me too. It’s such a fantastic feeling in the middle of a difficult sequence to release the hips, hamstrings, calves, cervical spine and rejuvenate for the next asana.
If this sounds familiar and forward folds are definitely on the menu in your yoga asana restaurant, you might be curious to find out why your body just eats them up!
So here are some of our favourite benefits of forward folds that make them so awesome.
1. Forward folds stretch the entire backside of the body - from head to heels.
Out of the thousands of asanas out there, many yoga gurus consider Paschimottanasana one 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. This takes me to my next point...
2. Forward folds soothe the nervous system and encourage introspection.
Let’s think of the spine as the lord commander of our nervous system, with the gazillion nerves in the body reporting into it. Forward folds create space between each and every vertebra, increasing circulation to those gazillion nerves.
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 their gaze inward - physically and emotionally.
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. Can I get an Amen?
4. Forward folds increase circulation to the pelvic organs.
Forward bends can alleviate some of the common complaints with that time of the month as fresh blood flows to the uterus in this pose. The increased circulation to the pelvic organs can also help with some symptoms of menopause.
Increasing circulation to this area can also help with infertility, impotence and sexual desire. Many yoga gurus recommend it for women after childbirth to encourage healing.
5. Forward folds calm the mind and cool the body.
Remember that fantastic feeling forward folds cause that we touched on at the beginning of the article? I think it’s 70 percent because of their ability to calm the mind and cool the body.
During a pretty intense flow, a pause in forward fold is like a quick jolt of cold water at the end of a shower. With your head below your heart, fresh oxygenated blood can rush to your head and rejuvenate you for the next section of a strong sequence. They calm the mind by reducing anxiety and worry, depression, and insomnia.
Forward bends aren’t just essential to a well-rounded (pun totally intended!) yoga asana practice, but they do a whole lotta good for your entire being - mind, body and soul.