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Paschimottanasana: Seated Forward Bend Pose


A beneficial pose for the physical and subtle bodies, Paschimottanasana (POSH-ee-moh-tan-AHS-anna), also known as Seated Forward Bend, will encourage ease in your hamstrings and lower back, as well as your mind. With correct alignment, this pose can be held for greater lengths of time in order to reap its powerful benefits.

Philosophy + Origin

A traditional Iyengar posture, Prasarita Padottanasana has found its way into almost every style of yoga and classes across the country. A wonderful way to open the body and help make more forward bends accessible, B.K.S. Iyengar taught several variations of this posture, labeling them as A, B, C, and D. The most commonly practiced variation (and the one described here) is Prasarita Padottanasana A. Prasarita Padottanasana B is when your hands are on your hips and the head is lifted off the ground, not resting on the mat. Prasarita Padottanasana C is the variation where the hands are interlaced and stretched behind the back and over the head as you fold. In the final variation taught by Iyengar, Prasarita Padottanasana D asks the student to grasp the big toe on each foot.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • When the head is unable to meet the floor, a pillow, bolster or chair can be used to give the crown of the head something to rest on.
  • For students who cannot reach their hands to the floor, use blocks or a chair instead.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Tight hamstrings
  • Lower back pain or injury
  • Diarrhea
  • Asthma

TIPS:

Making sure your pelvis is in the proper position is an essential part of the alignment for Paschimottanasana. For many students, sitting on the ground moves their pelvis into a posterior tilt. This position can strain the back when hinging forward. To help prevent the pelvis from tilting back, place a folded blanket (or blankets) under your sit bones so that the bowl of the pelvis tips forward. From there, you can experience more length in your spine as you open your hamstrings and fold forward.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Flex your toes back towards your face as you press through your heels. Engage your thighs, bringing the tops of them towards each other through a slight internal rotation. Place the palms of your hands on the floor by your hips and press firmly down. Extend through the spine by lifting your sternum up and broadening across your collarbones.
  2. As you inhale, hinge from your hips while keeping the front of your torso long and extended. Root down through your tailbone as your sternum reaches forward towards your toes. Extend the arms forward, reaching for your feet with straight elbows.
  3. To deepen the pose, don’t push yourself further forward. Instead, find more depth by continuing to lengthen the front body and encouraging the sternum forward. As you get deeper into the fold, bend your elbows out and up. The progression should be lower belly to thighs, then upper belly, then ribs and finally forehead to shins.
  4. Allow the breath to move fluidly with you in the pose, using each inhale to lengthen and each exhale to hinge deeper.
  5. Hold the pose for up to 3 minutes before slowly releasing with an inhalation.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Balasana
  • Dandasana
  • Janu Sirsasana
  • Utkatasana
  • Uttanasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Ardha Matsyendrasana
  • Savasana

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Stretches hamstrings, spine, lower back
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves symptoms of PMS and menopause
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Stimulates liver, kidneys and female reproductive organs
  • Eases headaches
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Encourages sleep and eases insomnia

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Calms the mind
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Improves mild depression
  • Balances feminine and masculine energies

SANSKRIT:

  • Pashima = west
  • Uttana = intense stretch
  • Paschimottana = intense stretch of the west
  • Asana = pose

MANTRA:

“Om Namah Shivaya”

This mantra helps you recognize your true nature. Practicing in Seated Forward Bend, fold forward as you bow to your own inner divinity. Regularly reciting this mantra will help to dissolve separation between opposing thoughts and beliefs.

 

MUDRA: Shiva Linga Mudra

To practice this mudra, make a fist with your right hand, extending the thumb up. Place your right hand in the palm of your left hand at your navel point. This mudra is symbolic of the union between Shiva and Shakti and is thought to bring balance to life.

 

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