As Swart explains to mbg, forward folds are not only a great stretch, but when we hold them for a bit longer than we might normally, they can help the body go into “rest and digest” mode, which helps us destress, and maintain a healthy weight.
When we’ve put on weight, Swart notes, “the natural idea to counteract that is to do more aerobics, more weights, maybe change your diet—but actually, because it’s the stress hormone that’s trying to save us by holding onto 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.”
That’s because, being an inversion, forward folds allow your head to come below your heart, which calms the mind, relieves stress, and can even help headaches. And, the folding of your torso also works to improve digestion. A win-win!