Forward Bend, Seated
PAŚCHIMOTTĀNĀSANA (पश्चिमोत्तानासन)
(POS-chee-moh-tuhn-AHH-sah-nah)

 


‘Paśchima’= west, back, or back of body, ‘uttāna’= intense stretch, extended, straight, or stretched,
‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Pascimottanasana
Seated Forward Fold
Intense Dorsal Stretch
Intense Back Stretch
Entire Back Stretch Pose
West Stretch (Stretching) Pose
Intense West Side Stretch
Intense Stretch of the West
Ugrasana

Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pose Type: Forward-Bend / Stretch / Seated

1. Start in Staff Pose (Dandasana), seated with your legs extended straight (do not lock the knees). Make sure to bring your shoulder blades back so that your shoulders are down and under your ears with your spine extended upward.
2. Tuck in your tailbone and root down into your sit bones. Press your legs firmly to the floor, grounding yourself to the mat, without locking your knees. Flex your feet with your toes are pointing to the sky.
3. Take a deep breath and raise both arms above your head. When ready, exhale and begin to bend forward from the hips.
4. Engage your abdomen, broaden your shoulders, and lengthen through your spine to the crown of your head. Keep your back straight as you try to touch your nose or forehead to your knees.
5. Lift your belly and stretch through your legs as you continue to bend forward and wrap your hands around the soles of your feet. Be sure not to lock your elbows or knees.
6. Hold this pose for several breaths and breath smoothly. Make sure not to bounce or force the stretch.
7. When ready, slowly release and rise back into Staff Pose (Dandasana).

Common Adjustments
• Rounded back
• Shoulders hunched or lifted
• Straining to stretch farther
• Neck strained
• Folding at the lower back or waist instead of the hips
• Feet and knees out of alignment
• Knees locked
• Elbows locked

Modifications
• Students with tight calf muscles and/or hamstrings, or have stiff knees, can place a blanket or a bolster under their knees. Alternatively, students can bend their knees to reduce the strain.
• For students, who have tight hamstrings, a tight lower back, tight hips, or cannot reach their feet, they can either: a) practice with a strap wrapped around their feet and gently pull the strap, b) start with first reaching for their shins, then their ankles, and then build up their flexibility to reach their feet, c) place a pillow, blanket, or bolster on their thighs and/or knees 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 feet to grab onto.
• Pregnant students should practice Forward Bend, Seated Wide Angle - Dragonfly (Upavistha Konasana).
• For alignment, practice with your back against the wall. Place feet against the wall for a deeper stretch.
• For advanced students, place a block behind their feet and have them reach for the block. Alternatively, they can either: a) grab their toes, b) wrap their hands round their feet with their hands either together either Venus Lock or Bear Grip, c) wrap their hands around their feet and then clasp one wrist while their other hand is in Guyan Mudra, or d) they can cross their wrists over each other to grab the opposite foot.

Counter Poses
• Knees to Chest (Apanasana)
• Cobra (Bhujangasana)
• Bow (Dhanurasana}
• Camel (Ustrasana)
• Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
• Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
• Upward Facing Plank Pose (Purvottonasana)

Anatomy
• Neck• Chest (Pectoralis Major)
• Shoulders (Deltoids)• Biceps and Triceps
• Abdomen (Core) and Obliques• Upper (Cervical), Middle (Thoracic), and Lower (Lumbar) Back and Spine
• Hips (Psoas and Iliopsoas)• Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus (Glutes)
• Quadriceps and Hamstrings• Calf muscles and Ankles

Benefits
• Stretches and strengthens the neck, arms, shoulders, abdomen, entire back, spine, hips, hamstrings, calf muscles, and ankles. Improves posture and spinal alignment.
• Improve blood circulation and soothes headaches as well as menopausal and menstrual discomfort.
• Massages digestive and pelvic organs such as the adrenal glands, kidneys, bladder, pancreas, ovaries, liver, and uterus. This is therapeutic for students with diabetes, weak liver, or kidneys and improves colon function, digestion, and relieves flatulence.
• Stimulates the reproductive, lymphatic, and urinary systems. Also stimulates the nervous system, which calms the brain, reducing stress and anxiety, as well as relieves mild depression, insomnia, and fatigue.
• Therapeutic for students with high blood pressure and sinusitis.

Contraindications
1. Students with hip, lower back, or hamstring injuries, spondylitis, intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, or are pregnant, 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, or a hernia should avoid this pose, as well as just after a student has had an asthmatic attack. Students with Asthma should use caution in this pose
3. Students with arm, shoulder, knee, or ankle injury should be cautious and practice with guidance.
4. Never push down on a student’s spine or knees.

Chakras
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 Three:Solar Plexus, Self-Power, or Manipura (lustrous gem) Chakra. This is the combustion, power, and energy chakra. Its goals are vitality, strength of will, and purpose. Its location is the solar plexus.
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.
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.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 8 – Seated Postures as “Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend, or Intense West-Side Stretch”.
    • Watch the Chapter 8 video “Paschimottanasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – SITTING POSES as “PASCHIMOTTANASANA – West (Back) Spreading”.

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