Forward Folds

What happens when forward folds do NOT have a calming effect?

This is general information from occupational therapists trained in sensory processing, for specific assistance consult the child’s OT or school OT.

Inversions are one of the first movements we recommend when introducing Move Mindfully®. However, interventions that involve body work are completely individualized and can change over time. For example, when introducing a moment, one child may respond positively while another child may have adverse reactions (including big behaviors) to the same movement. Here are a few things to consider when using Forward Folds.

Understanding Vestibular Input

Vestibular= relating to a vestibule, particularly that of the inner ear, or more generally to the sense of balance.

Vestibular input is most generally known as ones sense of balance. Frequently we see youth with vestibular issues lean against or touch walls frequently. They may also demonstrate loss of balance while seated and may be unable to maintain an unsupported sit in circle time. This can lead to frequent movement, weight shifts and fidgets.

Forward Folds can impact sense of balance. Students may feel in either extreme: Feeling too much input or needing additional input. Here are simple ways to address both needs.

“Forward Folds are too much input.”

Placing the head below the heart can leave one feeling dizzy or disoriented. Cueing deep proprioceptive input after a forward fold can counterbalance any negative effects. For example, pressing gently on the top of the head, pushing the wall, or stomping feet.

“Forward Folds create the need for more input.”

A seeker of vestibular input will move their body to get more input in a Forward Fold. This may manifest itself as difficulty holding still in the movement. In these instances cue the individuals to shake their heads yes/no or gently sway from side to side to give the body the additional input.

Offer Choice

The best option is to introduce small forward folds and gradually increase the depth of the fold. Along the way notice the affect on the vestibular system. Then, offer choice any time an inversion is cued so students can feel comfortable with the movement. Check out our Move Mindfully® Card Deck for photos and scripts to help you cue these movements.

Forward Folds with Increased Inversion

  1. Gaze Down
  2. Head on Desk
  3. Forward Fold Supported on Chair
  4. Child’s
  5. Standing Forward Fold
  6. Down Dog

Build a Sequence

We would not recommend doing inversions when starting a session, especially if  bodies are moving quickly. Start with a releasing breath, like Conductor, to meet the body where it’s at. After this breath work ease into standing movements and inversions (down dog, forward fold). Have the children try to activate the proprioceptive receptors by cueing to push the floor/wall away with hands and/or feet. When in doubt return to a breathing strategy.

Forward Folds are often a go-to movement to produce the desired relaxed/alert state. These few tips can assure that this movement is accessible for all bodies and all learners. Have you tried forward folds? What has worked? Leave a comment!

Written By,

Johanna McGough-Pose and Katie Novak

1 reply
  1. Sandra Busta
    Sandra Busta says:

    I have seen release/calming reset movement sequence work first hand. Example: series of 3-5 wood choppers, and then forward fold, hang and breath for a few deep breathes. The MOST busy, over stimulated kiddos are the ones who flop back on their bottoms and say “I’m tired!” or simply flop down with a big yawn. And the teachers and i just look at each other like, “did you see that, too?!” These kids just don’t typically display a quiet, relaxed body, ever! Thank you 1000 Petals!

    Very Sincerely, Sandra in Iowa


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