Young woman practicing yoga, doing head to knees, uttanasana exercise, Standing forward fold pose.

Forward folds, or Uttanasana in Sanskrit, is one of the most common asanas in Yoga practice. But why? What is so special about forward folds? And why are now neuroscientists urging us to do more folding?

According to Tara Swart, neuroscientist, medical doctor, a long forward fold is just what we need in our daily routine.

But first, let’s look into how to properly do a forward fold:

  1. Stand in mountain pose, with your hands by your side. Take a deep inhale.
  2. On your exhale, begin to hinge forward from the hips with a straight spine,if you wish, you can bend the knees, allowing your stomach to come to the top of your thighs.
  3. Allow the head to hang heavy, grabbing opposite elbows with opposite hands.
  4. Begin to shift the weight into the heels, as you tilt the hips upward and straighten out your legs.
  5. If your legs are straight without having to round your spine too much, you can reach for the floor with your hands, pressing into the mat with fingertips or palms. For a deeper stretch, wrap the arms around the backs of your ankles.
  6. Engage the fronts of the thighs to allow your hamstrings to release and start shifting your weight into the balls of your feet.
  7. Hold for up to 1 minute. As you inhale, work to lengthen the torso, lifting it slightly, and as you exhale, release, as you’ll be able to stretch even deeper.
  8. To come out, inhale and rise up with straight legs and a flat back. Alternatively, you can rag-doll up, one vertebra at a time, with chin coming up last.

So now, why are forward folds good for us?

It’s not merely a good stretch and a de-stressor, as Tara Swart explains, the longer you hold the pose the more that body gets into a rest-and-digest state which is necessary to lose weight! Yes, lose weight! Who could have thought that a simple forward-fold could contribute to weight loss?

Let’s get into the rationale behind this.

When people gain weight, people tend to do more aerobics and more weightlifting, but, as Swart notes,

“because it’s the stress hormone that’s trying to save us by holding on to belly fat, it’s really important to do exercises that reduce your stress.”

Enter: forward folds.

“It moves your nervous system into parasympathetic, not sympathetic, which is fight-or-flight,” she says, “and that can actually trigger your brain to release fat.”

So, next time you’re doing a forward fold, you can truly appreciate the multi-dimensional benefits of this asana. And remember, the longer, the better!

If you’re looking for a guided yoga practice, don’t forget to check out our Yoga classes at Align, here in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. With certified trainers who provide mind-body direction throughout the practice.