|Meaning||Paschim - West or the back of the body
Uttana - Intense stretch
Asana - Pose
|Known as||Seated Forward Bend Pose, Paschimottanasana, West Stretch Pose|
|Pose Type||Sitting, Forward Bend|
|Pose Level||Beginner, Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes|
|Beneficial In||Stretching Spine, Thighs & Arms|
When we spend a lot of time sitting in a chair or doing a desk job, our back gains stiffness and rigidity. Also, the lack of physical exercise increases this stiffness and reduces the mobility of the body.
If you are feeling stiffness and rigidity on your back, then, it is time to add Yoga in your daily routine.
Yoga includes a wide range of asanas, which can eliminate this problem from your body. One of these is Seated Forward Bend Pose or Paschimottanasana. In this article, you will come to know everything about Paschimottanasana. So let’s get started.
Seated Forward Bend Pose: Paschimottanasana
Paschimottanasana is an intense back stretching asana, that stretches whole back part of your body, from the waist. It removes stress form your whole body and calms your mind.
When you feel tired and fatigue, this is the best asana, that will stretch your whole body and make it relaxed. Moreover, your mind feels restless, perform this asana, and you will see a deeply soothing effect on your mind.
It mainly stretches the following parts of the body.
- Back and core
- Arms and shoulders
- Hips and thighs
- Calves and hamstrings
Hatha Yoga Pradipika Describes Paschimottanasana
It is an ancient Yoga Asana, that was first described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika in the 15th-century. Chapter 1 Verse 30 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika says,
prasārya pādau bhuvi daṇḍa-rūpau, dorbhyāṃ padāghra-dvitayaṃ ghṝhītvā|
jānūparinyasta-lalāṭa-deśo, vasedidaṃ paśchimatānamāhuḥ ||
Having stretched the feet on the ground, like a stick, and having grasped the toes of both the feet with both the hands, when one sits with his forehead resting on the thighs, it is called Paśchima Tâna (Paschimottasana).
This verse is enough to tell all the procedures and instructions of Paschimottanasana/Seating Forward Bending Pose. Let’s see the instructions to perform Paschimottanasana in detail.
How to Perform Seated Forward Bend Pose
Paschimottanasana is a basic stretching pose and it is not very hard to perform. The following are the steps to perform this asana.
Preparing the Asana
- Firstly, sit firmly on your sitting bones, keeping the spine straight and stretched.
- Stretch out your legs in front of you, keeping them straight and flat on the floor. The toes should be pointing towards the ceiling and feet should be together.
- Place your palms on the floor on either side of your hips, firmly.
This is the Staff Pose or Dandasana. Take 2-3 deep breaths here.
Getting into the Asana
There are two methods of getting into the Paschimottanasana. Let’s see them one by one.
- With an exhalation, grab the toes with your hands keeping the spine stretched and straight. Take a few breaths here.
- Then, with an exhalation, bring the trunk forwards, bending the elbows and touch the forehead to the knees.
- With an inhalation, raise and stretch your arms straight over your head, palms facing each other.
- Then, with an exhalation, bend forwards from the waist and try to bring your chin towards the toes.
Note- The arms should be straight and keep stretching the spine.
- Now, place the hands on the toes and place your forehead on your shins or knees, wherever you reach.
From here, the further process remains the same in both methods.
Note- Try to Lengthen the spine as much as possible and touch the belly to the thighs. Do not worry if knees are slightly lifted off the ground. It is totally normal.
On the basis of hand position on toes, Paschimottanasana is categorized into three categories, Paschimottanasana A, Paschimottanasana B, and Paschimottanasana C. Let’ see them one by one.
1. Paschimottanasana A
In Paschimottasana A, you have to hold your big toes of left and right foot with the first two fingers of respective hands. Here you have to bend your elbows and rest them on the floor. Then, touch your forehead to the knees.
2. Paschimottanasana B
In Paschimottanasana B, you grab the soles of the feet with respective hands, either over the toes or from the sides of feet. Then place your forehead on your knees.
3. Paschimottanasana C
In Paschimottanasana C, you need to grab the right hand’s wrist or palm with the left hand (or vice-versa), beyond the outstretched feet. Then place your forehead on your knees or shins.
These three categories are in increasing order of difficulty. At first, perform Paschimottanasana A. When you feel it easy, go for Paschimottanasana B. Then when you feel it easy also, go for Paschimottanasana C.
- After getting into any of these categories, breath deeply and bring your awareness to the flow of prana.
Hold this position for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, breathing evenly.
Releasing the Asana
- When you are done, take a slow and deep breath. Now with inhalation, lose the grip of your hands, and come to sitting position.
- Then, with an exhalation, drop the arms and relax the body.
- In the beginning, you might not be able to touch the hands with toes and place the forehead on the knees. So, do not bother as it is common in the beginning. Just stretch as much as you can keeping the spine straight.
Also if you can’t touch your toes, gently place your arms above ankles or on shins, and stretch the back.
- Beginners can take the help of their partner or instructor to push your back, so that, you can stretch your back more.
- Place a folded blanket under your hips to increase the comfort.
- Beginners can use a yoga strap if they can not stretch their body forwards. Just roll the strap over the feet and hold it with hand. Then pull it to stretch your back.
- In the beginning, perform it for short periods like 30seconds to 60 seconds, then increase it gradually.
Precautions and Contraindications
- Do not cross the bending limits of your body. Stretch and bend your body according to your capacity. Overstretching can cause you harm.
- As it is a forwards bend, it needs the engagement of your stomach. So, perform in only on an empty stomach.
- If you are suffering from slip disc, spondylitis or hernia, you should not perform Paschimottanasana.
- Pregnant women should not perform this asana as this asana puts pressure on the abdomen part and pelvis. It is harmful to the health of the fetus.
- If you are having a recent or deep injury in your knees, thighs, arms, spine, and shoulders, do not perform this asana.
Paschimottanasana for Increasing the Height
If you are looking for some exercise that might help you to increase your height, Paschimottanasana is a great option. You can increase your height easily by the age of 21 years and in many cases, height can be seen increasing even after 21 years.
Generally, posture has a lot to do with your height and Yoga Asanas are all about the posture. The body posture in this asana is in such a way that it stretches all the muscles that mainly affect your height, such as, spine and legs and calves.
While you stretch your body in this asana, you are expanding your spinal columns. Besides, in the lower body, you are stretching the muscles of thighs and calves. This stretch lengthens the muscles of these areas and makes them strong.
Thus, slowly slowly, this asana increases your height.
Benefits of Seated Foreward Bend Pose
This asana stretches your whole body and increases its flexibility. It provides a good shape and posture to the body.
Chapter 1 Verse 31 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika says,
iti paśchimatānamāsanāghryaṃ, pavanaṃ paśchima-vāhinaṃ karoti |
udayaṃ jaṭharānalasya kuryād, udare kārśyamaroghatāṃ cha puṃsām ||
This Paśchima Tâna carries the air from the front to the back part of the body. It kindles gastric fire, reduces obesity and cures all diseases of men.
This verse is enough to know the benefits of Paschimottanasana. Let’s discuss them in detail in the following list.
- It stretches all the muscles around the spine and increases the blood circulation in the spinal columns. Thus, it keeps the spine healthy, strong and flexible.
Besides, it removes all the stiffness from the back and increases the mobility of the back.
- Paschimottanasana stretches the muscles of the abdomen. It massages the internal organs such as the pancreas, intestines, liver, kidneys, endocrine glands, etc. and improves their function. This results in a better digestive system and improved metabolism.
This is especially helpful for diabetic patients and for those who have weak kidney or liver.
Also, it put the muscles of the abdomen into work and exercises them. Thus it removes unnecessary fat from the abdomen region.
- This asana massages and tones the muscles of the pelvis. Thus, it keeps the reproductive organs healthy.
Also, this asana helps women in menopause and menstruation cycles.
- Seated Foreward Bend Pose stretches the muscles of the hips, hamstrings, thighs, and legs. This stretching tones the muscles of these areas. Also, this asana provides an overall good shape to the leg.
- It stretches the muscles of shoulders and arms, thus, helps in increasing their flexibility and mobility.
- This asana brings more oxygen to the brain. This helps in the overall function of the brain, removes negative emotions such as anger, depression, stress, etc and improves mood.
Also, it calms the mind and removes its restlessness.
- How Paschimottanasana calms the mind?
When we perform Paschimottanasana, our awareness automatically turns inwards. This awareness puts all the thoughts aside and focuses your mind on your inner body. This is how it calms the mind.
- What is the best time to perform Paschimottanasana?
Morning time is the best time to perform Paschimottanasana. As in the morning, our mind lies in its freshest state, and the body is also refreshed, so performing it at this time of the day gives your its best benefits.
Besides, if you can't perform it in the morning, you can still consider performing it in the evening.
- Does Paschimottanasana help in getting sound sleep?
Yes, Paschimottanasana does help in getting a sound sleep. As it calms the mind, it reduces the fluctuation of thoughts in the mind and helps in getting better sleep.
But, do not perform it just before going to bed after dinner. As it needs an empty stomach, you should not perform it before going to bed.
Yes, if you can perform it after 4-6 hours of having dinner, you can perform it before going to bed.