10 Benefits of Yoga Forward Folds:
- They build strength and flexibility in the spine.
- Forward bends release tension in the neck, lower and upper back.
- They soothe and calm the nervous system.
- Forward folds encourage introspection, as the gaze turns inwards.
- They create space between the vertebrae, as the weight of the head releases pressure from the spine, upside down.
- Forward folds increase circulation and blood flow to the spine, helping it heal and releasing blockages.
- They increase the circulation to the abdominal and pelvic organs: Pancreas, spleen, kidneys, liver, intestines, uterus, bladder
- Forward folds invigorate you as your head moves below your heart
- They are also great for the complexion, as new blood and oxygen flows to the face and brain; with the head below the heart.
- Forward folds are also said to reduce fatty deposits to the thighs and belly
Below we focus on some examples of forward folds, whether kneeling, standing or seated.
Child Pose/ Balasana
Bala – Young, childish, not fully grown or developed.
Child’s pose is a kneeling forward bend. Use your exhalation to deepen into the position and give into gravity. It is an introverted position, so take time to turn the gaze inwards and notice how you feel. It is a humble pose as you bow forwards.
When kneeling in yoga, such as in Child’s pose, the body‘s weight is on the knees, shins and parts of the feet; bringing our centre gravity closer to the ground. Kneeling positions are very humble and meek. A person is defenceless, unable to run away.
In yoga, kneeling positions are often used to help open the knee and hip joints because the weight is taken off the feet and legs. The pelvic muscle attachments can be stretched because they aren’t being used to balance the body in an upright position.
As far as the spine is concerned, there is spinal flexion and some cervical extension. The aim of this pose is to bring the sitting bones to the heels and forehead to the floor. To do so we need to lengthen: the extensors of the spine, gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, piriformis (the muscle that wraps around the hips and holds the hip joint in position), the hamstrings, and the muscles below the knee: tibialis anterior and peroneus tertius and brevis.
Lift the head if you feel the breath is restricted. You can also stack your fists, one on top of the other, under your forehead if you need a softer stretch.
Uttanasana/ Standing Forward Bend
Ut – Intense
Tan – Stretch
In this standing forward bend gravity does most of the work. Soften and bend the knees if there is any back injury or restriction. Let the head hang heavy. This forward bend is wonderful for relieving lower, mid and upper back and neck tension. It also create space in the spine as the weight of the head and gravity allows the spaces between the vertebrae to widen. It’s also great for your complexion, giving a fresh supply of blood to the face
It’s a fabulous stretch to the whole of the back of the body from the heels to the back of the head. It lengthens the spinal muscles, hamstrings, that gluteus medius, minimus and maximus, piriformis, adductor magnus, soleus and gastrocnemius.
If you have low blood pressure, come out of the pose very slowly. If you have high blood pressure only stay if the breathing is not strained.
If you have tightness in the back of the legs don’t pull. It’s better to soften and bend the knees to find some space in the hip joint, allowing the spine to lengthen and release. This gives an even stretch along the entire back line of the body. Make sure the outer edges of your feet are parallel to the edges of your mat, to ensure an even stretch along the whole back body.
Paschimottanasana/ Intense Stretch To The West
Uttana – intense stretch
Downward Facing Dog/ Dog Head Down
Adho Mukha – Having the face down
Shvanasana – Dog