A Rush of Blood to the Head with Standing Forward Bend
By Nora Sundari Benian
Over time, our experience of yoga asanas evolves beyond the physical — the postures become our teachers and companions, showing us our relationship with ourselves and the world. Enjoy this collection of stories submitted by Sivananda Yoga practitioners from around the world, sharing their in-depth connections with each asana of the Sivananda sequence.
When I surrender into a standing forward bend I feel like I’m folding into myself and turning my world upside down. Mentally, this helps me in seeing things from the flipside. When I practice the standing forward bend outdoors, I look up at the clouds. I take a mental break from the pressures of life.
Aside from the powerful spine and hamstring stretch that the standing forward bend offers, its benefits go much deeper. As I’ve deepened my own practice with the standing forward bend, I’ve come to realize that it offers me an opportunity to thank the source of life for all its splendour and nourishment.
It helps me to feel humble and hopeful. Standing forward bend, or pada hastasana, is a posture that symbolizes bowing to the powerful, life-giving sun. And though it is a bow to the sun, it also offers a profound connection to the earth. Both hands and feet to reach for earth energy in the standing forward bend.
To me, this makes perfect sense and brings balance to my understanding of the posture. After all, it is the sun that provides the earth with the power to produce our sustenance. With the standing forward bend, we are actually thanking them both at the same time, mentally by bowing — and physically and energetically by touching and connecting.
On a purely physical level, I’ve received profound benefits from the standing forward bend that will keep me practicing it for the rest of my life. With my head pulled down by gravity and the spine along with it, I feel relief from the pressure of the vertebrae pressing upon the one another. It feels like my nerves can finally transmit without any obstructions or irritations. It calms my nervous system and brain.
The standing forward bend allows for a gentle rush of blood to the head, and I can feel my brain cells smiling. They are flooded nourishment and oxygen, receiving stimulation and relaxation at the same time — a relief for my overworked brain. Because oxygen feeds the cells, they become happy and satisfied that they have what they need to perform their daily demands.
When my nervous system is relaxed, this allows my mind to be calm. I feel easily inspired into a more meditative perspective and peaceful state — a state that is most ideal to make decisions or see things more clearly.
One thing I’ve noticed while practicing the standing forward bend is my breath is my most helpful tool in helping my body release tension. From a scientific perspective, I know more oxygen means more relaxation to cells. Anatomically, breathing deeply expands the rib cage, lungs, and muscles, allowing further release and opening. Flushing out stagnant energy and toxins from these tissues can be an even greater relief from tension than the more obvious and eventual hamstring, low back release.
Of course though, to receive these benefits we must bravely dive forward. Even when we know there may be discomfort in the hamstrings, low back, neck, or feet, we surrender. If we don’t, our fascia network continues to tighten up with age, worry, fear, anger and lack of movement. That’s why even with fear and slight discomfort, it’s still wise to practice.
I like to practice at least once a day, or better, many times a day. Sometimes I hold it for several minutes without moving … just to feel the magic unfold. The more we can open ourselves, bow down, and free our bodies, the better we can fulfill our dharma. This is why I practice the standing forward bend.
Every week from January 1 – March 26, 2018, we will be sharing a new story — You can access all of the current ones here.