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PASCHIMOTTANASANA - Forward Bend Pose

Paschimottanasana is one of the classical asanas in Hatha Yoga. It has a many benefits which cover all the body systems.

(Paschim-uttan-asana)
West = west side of the body (back side of the body, as east side is front side of body)
Uttan = stretch
Asana = Posture 

Paschimottanasana

 Paschimottanasana – Forward Bend Pose

The front side of the body is called the east side, while the back side is called the west side. In this asana the complete west side is stretched from the heels to the head and is therefore called Paschimottanasana. This pose helps to open the hips, stretch the hamstrings, calm the mind and allow one to look within.
Taking the asana position:
forward bend step 1 forward bend step 2

  1. Inhale.

forward bend step 3

  1. While exhaling grab hold of the big toes of each feet with the corresponding hands.

forward bend step 4

  • Exhale out completely and fold forward keeping the back straight, try to rest the forehead on the knees. Continue to maintain the asana, breathing normally.

The asana position:
After bending forward keep the heels, calves and thighs touching the floor. The spine should be straight and the forehead should rest on the knees. The breath should be smooth and if possible the elbows should rest on the floor. As the abdomen is completely folded the bend should be completed after exhaling fully. One should bend only to ones comfort and then stabilise at that point. The knees should not be bent towards the forehead. As the body relaxes the head, shoulders and chest will automatically and naturally come down. Do not strain or pull on the feet to get the forehead closer to the knees. The breath will allow the body to relax more.
Releasing the asana position:

  1. Exhale and while inhaling raise the head.
  2. Release the hands and return to sitting position.

Anatomical focus:
Back, hips, hamstrings, adbomen
Awareness:
Lengthening and relaxing the spine as well as relaxing the hips and hamstrings
Do:

  • Hold the toes with the hands, keeping the legs straight.
  • Bend forward in the waist.
  • Try to touch the forehead to the knees and elbows to the ground but focus on lengthening the spine.

Don’t:

  • Bend the knees.
  • Arch the spine whilst trying to bring the forehead to the knees.
  • Pull on the feet

Benefits:

  • It stretches the muscles of the back side of the body from head to the ankles. It contracts the muscles of the anterior part of the body.
  • This creates pressure on the thorax and abdomen, improving the process of respiration and the functions of the intra abdominal glands, especially the secretions.
  • Improves the flexibility of the lumbar region, the hips and thigh (back side of thighs and calves).
  • Massages and tones the abdominal and pelvis region including all organs such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, adrenals, spleen and intestines.
  • Improves the blood circulation in the back region and tones the spinal nerves.
  • Improves alignment of the vertebral column.
  • Removes the fat from the hips, the abdomen and thigh region.
  • Helps to remove disorders of the uro-genital system.
  • The nadi’s are purified.
  • Helps to activate the kundalini shakti.
  • Encourages introversion
  • Soothing for the mind, removing anxiety, anger and irritability
  • Encourages surrender, letting go and acceptance

Benefits for Women

  • Useful for balancing the menstrual cycle and improving blood circulation and prana to the pelvic region
  • Calms the emotions
  • Helps to remove pelvic congestion
  • Relieves period pain

Therapeutic applications:
Diabetes
Menstrual disorders
Bronchitis
Sluggish Liver
Colitis
Kidney problems

Precautions and Contra-indications:

  • People who suffer from slipped disc or sciatica should not practice this asana or those who have had recent abdominal surgery.

Duration: This asana can be held for up to 30 seconds to start with and over time this can be increased to 3 – 5 minutes.
Additional section -
Variations and tips:
If there is a lot of tightness in the hamstrings and gluteus maximus there will be some restriction in hip flexion. This causes the hip flexors and abdominal muscles to contract to lower the body to the knees causing congestion. Instead a blanket can be placed under the buttocks.
Also make sure that you are sitting completely straight before moving into the position. You may need to move the buttocks back a little so that you are sitting on your bones.
When coming into the position it can be easier to raise the arms first to lengthen the spine before folding the body, remembering to bend from the base of the spine.
If you cannot hold your toes then hold the ankles, shins or knees. Practicing the forward standing bend can be very useful and easier to help open the body up.
Do remember that it is with relaxation that you will progress more in this position. A few deep breaths will be very useful to practice at the beginning.
Preparatory poses:
Ardha Paschimottanasan
Vajrasan Yoga Mudra Type 1 and 2
Standing Forward Bend

Paschimottanasana Preparatory Movements

  • PM 6 and 9
  • Grinding the mill movement 5 times each direction. From sitting spread the legs apart, straighten the arms in front and clasp the hands. Slowly rotate as if grinding a mill. Repeat in the other direction.
  • From sitting spread the legs apart, bend forward and touch the right foot with the left hand looking over the right shoulder, repeat 5 times on each side.
  • Padmasan Yogamudra Type 1 first to the left side, then the front and then the right side.  Swap the legs over and repeat.
  • Sit up from supine with the arms over the head. Contract the abdomen and come into paschimottanasan, repeat 5 times.

Follow up poses:
Ek Pad Hastasan
Ardha Padma Bandhasan
Ugrasan

Ancient Sanskrit texts:
Prasarya Padou Bhuvi Dandaroopou Dorbhyam Padagradwitayam Grihitva I
Januparinyastalalatdesho Vasedidam Paschmattanamahu II (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1 – 28)

Meaning: Sit stretching both legs like a stick. Hold the big toes with both hands and see that the legs are not lifted or contracted in this position. Keep the forehead on the knees and remain still. This is called Paschimottanasana.
Prasarya Padau Bhuvi Dandaroopau Vinyastabhalam Chitiyugmamadhye I
Yatnen Padau Cha Dhrutau Karabhyam Tatpaschimottanamihasanam Syat II (Gherand Samhita 2 – 26)

Sit keeping both the legs straight like sticks. Place the forehead between the knees and touch them. Hold the toes with both hands. This is known as Paschimottanasana.

 Compiled by -Sannayasi Bhaktiratna (Kate Woodworth)

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