This asana is a great beginner pose that has many variations and modifications that can be used. Your textbook “RESTORATIVE YOGA FOR LIFE” provides a breakdown for a couple of these modifications and variations, however, lets look at the two traditional asanas that the examples provided in your textbook are based off of. The first option is your textbook is based off of Forward Bend, Seated (or in Sanskrit Paśchimottānāsana (POS-chee-moh-tuhn-AHH-sah-nah) and the second option is based off of Forward Bend, Seated Head to Knee (or in Sanskrit Jānu Śīrāsana (JAH-noo sher-SHAH-sah-nah). For a refresher on these two traditional asanas, see the below pictures and videos.

Forward Bend, Seated

In this variation a deeper stretch is felt in the calf muscles, hamstrings, and lower back than you would get in the modification provided in your textbook. This is due to the legs being fully extend. However, since the purpose of a Restorative Yoga class is rejuvenation, the modifications provided in your textbook will allow your students to still reap the benefits of this forward bend without straining themselves.

Forward Bend, Seated Head to Knee

This traditional asana is similar to the traditional asana above, however, by taking one leg in you are actually getting a deeper stretch in the lower back, the hips, and the extended leg. By practicing this asana as the Restorative Yoga variation in your textbook, will make this asana easier to obtain, as well as encourages energy flow throughout the body, without the intense stretch that is felt in the traditional version.

Now that we understand were these variations came from, lets discuss some additional modifications that can be done to help ease students into practicing this asana.

• Students with tight calf muscles and/or hamstrings, have stiff knees, or have osteoarthritis in the knees, can either: a) place a blanket or bolster under their knee or b) bend the knee of the extended leg.
• For students, who have tight hamstrings, a tight lower back, tight hips, or cannot reach their foot, they can either: a) practice with a strap wrapped around their foot and gently pull the strap, b) start with first reaching for their shin, then their ankle, and then build up their flexibility to reach their foot, c) place a pillow, blanket, or bolster on their thigh and/or knee to rest their head on (this also helps with breathing if stress is felt in the chest or lower abdomen), d) sit on the edge of a folded blanket, block, or chair (with or without a strap), or f) place a chair in front of their foot to grab onto.
• If the ankle of the bent knee is uncomfortable, place a blanket under the ankle for support. If the bent knee is uncomfortable or lifted, place a blanket, bolster, or block under the knee for support.
• For alignment, practice with your back against the wall.

The common modification that you see is placing a blanket under the thighs/knee to help support students in this asana, especially if you choose a different sitting asana as the foundation for this pose. As an example of this, see the below video on Forward Resting Angle or Baddhakonasa Paschimottanasana. In this variation we start in Bound Angle and utilize blankets to support the knees. A bolster is also used instead of a chair. Again, Restorative Yoga is about utilizing props that are available, so don’t be afraid to switch up the props.

Like all asanas there are benefits and contraindications to each. See below for the benefits and contraindications for this asana.

• Stretches and strengthens the neck, arms, shoulders, abdomen, entire back, spine, hips, groin, hamstrings, calf muscles, and ankles. This helps to improve flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings.
• Improves blood circulation, which improves lung function, as well as soothes headaches, along with menopause and menstrual discomfort. This also stimulates the kidneys, bladder, stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver, and uterus and soothes the adrenal glands. This is therapeutic for students with diabetes, weak liver or kidneys, or sciatica.
• Massages digestive and pelvic organs which improves colon function and digestion.
• Improves posture and spinal alignment.
• Stimulates the reproductive, endocrine, and urinary systems.
• Stimulates the nervous system, which calms the brain, reducing stress and anxiety, as well as relieves mild depression, insomnia, and fatigue.
• Opens chest and lungs and is therapeutic for students with high blood pressure, asthma, and sinusitis.

1. Students with acute hip, lower back, knee, or hamstring injuries, spondylitis, intestinal discomfort, or diarrhea should avoid this pose. If the student wants to practice this pose, it should be done with modifications, props, and guidance.
2. Students with a slip disc, bulging disc, a hernia, have low blood pressure or intestinal discomfort should avoid this pose. If the student wants to practice this pose, it should be done with modifications, props, and guidance.
3. Students with a knee or ankle injury should be cautious and practice with guidance.
4. Students with Asthma should use caution in this pose.
5. Never push down on a student’s spine or knees.

Now for how the chakras and doshic balance are affect in this asana.

Chakra One:Root or Muladhara (root support) Chakra. This is the survival and gravity chakra. Its goals are stability, grounding, prosperity, right livelihood, and physical health. Its location is the base of the spine, coccygeal plexus, legs, feet, and large intestines.
Chakra Two:Sacral or Svadhisthana (sweetness) Chakra. This is the chakra for emotion, sexuality, and attraction of opposites. Its goals are fluidity, pleasure, and relaxation. Its location is the abdomen, genitals, lower back, and hips.
Chakra Six:Third-Eye or Ajna (to perceive) Chakra. This is the intuition and projection chakra. Its goals are psychic perception and imagination. Its location is the brow.

VataThis dosha is decreased in this asana.
PittaThis dosha is increased in this asana.
KaphaThis dosha is increased in this asana.

Additional information on this asana

  • In the textbook “YOGA: THE PATH TO HOLISTIC HEALTH by B.K.S. Iyengar you can find multiple variations of this pose.
      • Forward Bends
        • Janu Sirasana (Head on knee pose)
        • Paschimottanasa (Intense back stretch)
      • Asanas for Stress
        • Paschimottanasa (Intense back stretch)
        • Adhomukha Paschimottanasa (Downward-facing intense back stretch)
        • Janu Sirasana (Head-on-knee pose)
        • Adhomukha Swastikasana (Downward-facing cross-legged pose)

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