The more I speak with my students, the more I can see that lack of basic knowledge of WHAT and especially WHY we are practicing on the mat, can show up as a resistance in our Yoga routine.
In order to overcome this resistance and show up for your practice (and mainly yourself), I decided to create a series of Blog Post with the focus on different functions of Forward Bends, Twist, Backbend and Inversion.
Today we talk about the function of forward bends in Yoga and how you can integrate it in your practice.
With basic knowledge, you will learn how to integrate more Yoga into your life, and you won’t stop after 10 minutes on the mat, due to confusion.
When the function of forward bends in Yoga is clear, you can start to integrate them more and more in your practice.
If on one side it’s essential to be guided by an expert Yoga Facilitator, on the other side I find more and more important to begin to practice independently and with freedom. For all the times when you don’t have time or the schedule of a class doesn’t match with yours. To explore yourself and your limits, to understand what you need and love yourself.
Function over the Form
With the synchronisation of breathes and movements, we can release physical, emotional and mental blockages. In this way, Prana can be released and can move freely in the body and in our system.
As you can read, the goal of a Yoga Practice is not to achieve a specific body type or a specific form.
The main goal is to use the body as a main instrument for Self-inquiry: through the practice we can get to know ourselves, remove old and stagnates energy and with the practice we can build new and fresh foundations for a healthier life.
When we move away from an idea or form, we think of a specific position, and shift our attention on the function instead, we tap in the intelligence of the body and sequencing.
When we know what and why we are doing a specific position, we are empowering ourselves and our future decisions.
ps: do you want to learn more about Yoga and Safety at home? Click HERE to access an other free resource in how to practice in safety at home.
The Function of Forwards Bends in Yoga
Let’s dive deeper on this theme and explore the function of forward bends in Yoga.
Even if I will divide physical, emotional, mental and energetic effects and benefits, please keep in mind that each level influences the other and there is no really separation between what happens mentally and physically.
We are a beautiful and complex system that reminds me a Picasso painting: we are made by a lot of different pieces but we all belong to the same system.
Physical Effects and Benefits
On the physical level, anytime we flex our spine forward and move from the hips, we are bending forward.
When we forward bend, we are decompressing and lengthening the lumbar spine, lower back.
The action of moving forward from the hips and the center of the body, create an inner massage for the organs of the abdominal region. With this massage we stimulate circulation of blood and nutrients in the lower part of the body.
As we are a complex system, anytime we fold forward we lengthen the entire back line of the body: hamstrings, muscles of the back up until the neck.
When we bend forward, it’s essential to keep the integrity of the spine. If we don’t pay attention to this element, we will round the back, collapse in the chest and stop breathing fully.
- To keep the spine long, imagine that you are moving from the center of the body, as if your navel is guiding the movement forward.
- If you need bend your knees to gain more mobility in your lower back.
- Keep your shoulder blades together and your chest open, so that your lungs have enough space to expand in a tri dimensional way.
- Keep your neck in its natual curve, tuck gently the chin to the sternum, gaze forward.
If you keep these elements in mind, you are able to practice a forward bends in safety and with intention.
Emotional/Mental Effects and Benefits
Imagine that the physical alignment is like the foundations of your pose: when your body is safe, then you can focus on different levels or aspects of yourselves.
The best way to experience what happens on a mental and emotional level when we forward fold, is to practice it. So right now, exactly right now, I invite you in a gentle forward bend. It doesn’t matter which one, just pick one.
When you are there observe the pattern and quality of your thoughts and emotions. What can you nourish when you bend forward? Spend some time there and explore.
In general, a forward fold is a moment of great intimacy with ourselves: we have the chance to collect our focus and energy towards the middle line of the body, promoting self-reflection and be present with ourselves.
When we bend the body forward, moving from the center of the body, we collect our energy and intention inward, enter in a deep and intimate relationship with our selves.
How do the Muslims pray? On their knees bending forward.
How do the Christian pray? Palms together, bow the head down.
* For me, the verb PRAY is not connected to anything religious, but pure presence with ourselves.
Folding forward is an automatic and ancestral way to collect our attention towards our inner universe.
So, anytime you need to calm down your spinning mind, turn inward and simply breathe – integrate more and more forwards bends in your practice.
Energetic Effects and Benefits
For the Hatha Yoga Tradition, there are 5 main different Prana Vayus (winds), 5 different energies, in our body with of course different effects.
When we bend forward, we stimulate 2 main Prana Vayus: Apana and Samana.
Apana is a downward and outward type of energy: it is connected to our exhalation and runs in our legs, pelvic floor and hip.
Samana runs in a spiral way at the level of our navel and it’s connected to digestion and assimilations of food and nutrients.
On an energetic level then, Forward Bends help us to ground, center, stabilize and create roots.
Anytime your mind is spinning, are experiencing overwhelm and the ground is moving under your feet, step on your mat and integrate forward bends in your sequence.
As you can read, it all makes sense in the big picture: the effect is the same, and the different levels (physical, emotional, mental and energetic) are simply different prospective towards the same goal.
Your next step
As you already know, I am am a practical person and an action taker. That’s why I decided to upload the reply of the FB live where I guide a 30′ Yoga Flow based on forward folds.
In this way you can have a direct experience and observe the effects and benefits on your body. The more you approach to your practice with curiosity, the more you will be able to apply on your own experience.
Waking up your Inner Teacher, Wisdom and Compass.
What to do next?
#1 Practice with me (if you want to practice immediately, skip the first 10′ where I explain the theory of forward folds)
#2 Share you experience with us, tagging us at @corpogiardino in Facebook, or if you want more an intimate conversation write to firstname.lastname@example.org
I am so glad you decided to nurture and commit to your wellbeing, remember, we can’t give from an empty cup.
With love and gratitude