One of the most magical aspects of yoga is how you can vary the practice based upon the way you feel today. It’s always fluid and adaptable to not just your physical needs, but your emotional and mental state as well. Some days, you just need a well-rounded yoga practice to keep you feeling strong, flexible, and balanced. Other days you need something more targeted and specific. Yoga can be your medicine.
You probably know that certain asanas or postures offer particular benefits. Breathing in a deliberate way and utilizing different pranayama techniques can revitalize you or relax you. Back bending opens the heart and energizes you. Twists encourage healthy digestion and are excellent for neutralizing your spine. Forward folds are not just about stretching your back and hamstrings, they also calm your nervous system and encourage you to shift your gaze inward. A well-rounded yoga practice moves you through a full range of motion to encourage a healthy spine and balanced body and mind.
This week, our focus is on forward folds, offering you ways to calm your nervous system, manage anxiety, stretch and strengthen the back body and improve your posture.
We’d love to share some of our favorite benefits with you and can’t wait for you to experience them yourself, perhaps with a new appreciation for why you are doing them.
Physically, forward folds stretch your entire back body––your back, hamstrings, and calves and help keep your spine supple and mobile. Creating more length and space between your vertebrae will help counteract all the time you may spend sitting. You will also release tension and strain you are holding from your neck to the base of your spine.
Poses like Paschimottanasana, or seated forward fold, are excellent for your digestion because your abdominal muscles like the intestines, kidneys, and liver are activated and compressed in this position. Your metabolism also receives a boost and don’t we all need that? And best of all, forward folds are cooling and can help you quiet your mind and actually lower your temperature if you are running hot.
This ability to cool your system is linked to how forward folds calm and soothe your energy and encourage your parasympathetic nervous system to engage. Once you are able to relax, you can truly begin to delve into introspection and contemplation. One of the primary reasons we practice yoga is to cultivate more quiet inside, right? To become less reactionary?
Less stress, less anxiety and tension culminate in a calmer mind can translate to deeper sleep too.
Of course, forward folds are not without their challenges. If performed without proper attention to alignment, these poses can exacerbate back pain or even create problems. What is vital to remember is to hinge from the hip crease and soften or bend the knees if you feel too much pressure in the lower back. If you are in a seated forward fold, use a blanket or block under your hips to maintain space in your spine. Remember the principle of shtira and sukham––maintain a balance between strength and softness. All you are seeking is sensation and steady breath. There’s no need to push further than that to garner all the benefits.
Try one of our four new fabulous classes this week and discover how a focus on forward folds will benefit you
1. Ellen Kaye - Fine Tune Your Forward Fold
2. Jack Cuneo - Ashtanga Standing Postures
3. Elise Fabricant - Yoga for Back Pain
4. Robert Sidoti - Balance, Bends, & Core
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