A seated forward fold, which provides the entire backside of the body a stretch and takes us into a place that is humble and strong the further we release into the asana.
(Paschima = west/ back side of the body; Uttana = extended, intense stretch)
Paschima means West, so Paschima uttana asana can be translated as ‘West raised pose’. It is because of the following reason:
If we stand looking at raising sun, our front of the body is facing East, back of the body – West, right side of the body – South, left side of the body – North.
In this asana, our back is up, as though raised, so this is called “West raised pose”.
How to practice
Sit on the floor with feet together, the legs extended, and place the palms on the ground by the side of the hips. Inhale, lengthen the spine and lift the arms up. Exhale, bend forward from hip joints and slide the hands down the legs. Try to hold big toes with your fingers. If it is impossible, hold any part of the legs that can be reached comfortably for you. Inhaling, lengthen the spine, back straight. Exhaling, gently bend further keeping back straight. Elbows bend and float out to the sides as more flexibility is gained. Fold the torso out over the legs. The lower belly should touch the thighs first, then the upper belly, then the ribs, and the head last. Avoid rounding the back, spine is straight with natural curve. Stay in this pose as long as you can with a sense of serenity and surrender, allowing your flexibility to increase gradually.
If you have tightness in the hamstrings or lower back, sit up on a folded blanket or bolster to aid in the tilt of the pelvis. If you feel tightness in the back of the legs, bend the knees. If you can’t reach the feet, hold the calf muscles or use a strap around the balls of the feet, holding it in both hands as you fold forward.
Benefits of Paschimottanasana
- stretches the hamstring, shoulder, arm, back and leg muscles
- rejuvenates the whole spine and central nervous system
- relieves lower backache and lengthens the muscles of the lower back
- increases flexibility in the back
- massages abdominal organs, improves digestion
- tones reproductive organs
- supports excretion, stimulates the endocrine system
- rejuvenates kidneys
- helps remove constipation
- calms the brain the mind is rested
- regulates menstrual cycle
- relieves stress of muscles, high blood pressure, insomnia
- soothes headache and migraines, prevents fatigue