Paschimottanasana: Seated Forward Bend Pose

Paschimottanasana-AshleighSergeant

Paschimottanasana (POSH-ee-moh-tan-AHS-ah-nah) invites space to the hamstrings and lower back as well as the mind. While there’s no need to touch your toes in this pose, practicing regularly can help lengthen the muscles in the legs and back to encourage flexibility and ease.

Philosophy + Origin

Paschimottanasana is one of the earliest-known yoga postures, dating back to the Yoga Pradipika. This pose is commonly known as seated forward bend or seated forward fold, but is also referred to as the stretch of the West, referring to the back side of the body.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Place a pillow, bolster, or chair under your forehead for a more restorative variation.
  • Option to sit in a chair with legs extended, then hinge from the hips to move into an accessible variation of seated forward bend.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Flex your feet so your toes are pointed up, then press through your heels to lengthen your legs.
  2. Extend your spine by lifting your sternum up and broadening across your collarbones.
  3. Hinge from your hips while keeping the front of your torso long and extended. Draw your tailbone back as your chest reaches forward toward your toes. 
  4. Find more depth by continuing to lengthen the front body and encouraging the sternum forward. If moving toward the connection of forehead to shins, the progression is lower belly to thighs, then upper belly, then ribs and finally forehead to shins.
  5. Allow the breath to move fluidly with you in the pose, using each inhale to lengthen and each exhale to hinge deeper.
  6. Hold the pose for up to 3 minutes before slowly releasing back to seated.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

  • Corpse pose | Savasana
  • Supported fish pose
  • Spinal twist | Jathara parivartanasana

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches hamstrings, spine, and lower back.
  • Thought to help relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause.
  • Thought to ease insomnia.

SANSKRIT:

  • Pashima = west
  • Uttana = intense stretch
  • Asana = pose


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Uttanasana: Standing Forward Bend

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

A soothing posture for body and mind, uttanasana (OOT-tan-AHS-ahna), or standing forward bend, is straightforward but far from simple. Requiring flexibility in hamstrings, hips, and calves, uttanasana also requires patience. Watch the ebbs and flows in your body and life reflected in this simple posture.

Philosophy + Origin

In uttanasana, knowing when to accept intensity and when to be content with where you are is key to steady progress without injury or frustration. It’s easy to try to push for more — with uttanasana, this means wanting to be more flexible or pushing further into the pose. Rather than struggling, use the posture to practice santosha (contentment). Can you accept both the intensity and your capacity right now?

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