Seated Forward Bend Paschimottanasana
Begin Seated with both legs extended out in front of the body. Adjust the pelvis to bring equal weight into both sitting bones. Engage the muscles of the legs, actively pressing the back of the legs into the floor and pressing out through the heels. Inhale to sit up tall through the spine and lift the chest (it may be necessary to sit up on a folded blanket or block). Press the hands down into the ground on either side of the legs to find more length in the spine. Exhale and fold forward from the hips to stretch over the tops of the legs. Press the sitting bones and the top of the leg bones back. The arms can reach forward to hold the outside edges of the feet (or ankles, or shins, if the feet are not possible).
Hold the posture for 1 minute to several minutes. To come out of the pose, inhale to lengthen and lift the spine, sliding the hands back.
This posture is best approached with patience and compassion as stubborn hamstrings and a tight lower back can leave students feeling frustrated. The goal of this posture is not to bring the head to the shins (though that may happen over time); rather the goal is to create length through the entire back of the body and to breathe deeply into the thoracic area. Envision a loop of energy starting from the toes all the way up the back of the legs, up the back of the pelvis, over the spine and back of the head, looping back to the toes. Keep the breath flowing deeply and the energy circling around the body like a cocoon.
While folding forward from the hips, imagine the buttocks or sitting bones pushing back and out to create more length in the lower back. As the torso comes forward try to sequence the lower belly onto the upper thighs first, then the ribcage over the lower thighs and knees, and finally the lead over the shins.
To keep the shoulders down and the neck lengthened, root the upper arm bones back in the same way the upper leg bones move back. The arms can then reach forward form this stable place. If the hands are wrapping the outside edge of the feet, soften the elbow joints and lift the arms away from the floor, the points of the elbows facing out to the sides.
Keep the legs active with the knees facing towards the ceiling and the feet engaged. The baby toes will wrap forward to draw the outside edge of the feet up towards the shins. Gently press out across the entire pad of the feet and heels.
- Stretches the entire back of the body- calves, hamstrings, back, neck
- Calms the nervous system
- Aids in Menstrual discomfort
- Beneficial for digestive organs
- Stimulates the kidneys
Watch Out For:
- Pulling forward with the arms
- Shoulders lifted
- Pelvis tipping posteriorly and lower back hunching (sit on a block, blanket or bolster to help)
- Bending at the waist instead of the hips
- Feet and knees falling out of alignment
- Use caution with students experiencing a back injury such as a bulging disc as deep flexion can increase symptoms
- Sit on a block, cushion, bolster or folded blanket
- Roll a small blanket behind the back of the knees
- Perform with the back up against the wall
- Use a strap around the feet
- To deepen the pose, reach the arms out past the feet and turn the right palm away from the sole of the foot, use the left hand to hold at the wrist.
- Use a yogi grip around the big toes, holding the big toes with the middle and index fingers.
Yoga Counter Poses
- Upward Facing Plank Pose- Purvottonasana
- Marichi- Marichyasana III
- Half Lord of the Fishes - Ardha Matsyendrasana
Written By: Meghan Aris
Certified in several disciplines of yoga, a pilates teacher and teacher trainer, Meghan is continually widening her path of body/mind studies. At a young age she began her journey into body movement through dance. After being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she shifted her practice to more rehabilitative yoga. In this discipline she found not only the resources to heal her body, but also a guide to living a life full of peace and joy. She can be found teaching on any given day at Fix Health Care