Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

पश्चिमोत्तानासन

Paścimottānāsana: paschima = back of body; uttana = straight or intense stretch

How to Get Into It

  1. Begin in a seated position. Press your sitting bones and heels to the mat. Your legs are straight in front of you with feet flexed. Don’t lean back, and make sure your torso creates a 90° angle with the thighs.
  2. Inhale and lift your hands above you, lengthening your spine. Then slowly bend forward, lengthening your abdominals and trying to press your tummy to your hips.
  3. Keep legs straight, but if you feel too much tension in ligaments under your knees – feel free to bend them slightly and stretch the torso and back first.
  4. The key is to fold deeper as you exhale and don’t force your body into the fold. So go slowly and stick to the breath. As you inhale, lengthen the lower back and front torso a bit and fold a little deeper as you exhale.
  5. Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths. Go up slow without any sudden moves to allow your muscles to adjust.

Note: reaching your toes isn’t the goal of this position. The hands’ position in different yoga styles varies. If it’s available to you, grab your toes with index and middle finger, elbows point to the sides.

For more flexible yogis – reach your palms further and place them on the soles of the feet (picture below).

If that’s too difficult – use a strap to loop around the soles and pull yourself deeper into the fold.

Benefits

  • This pleasant stretch for the most tensed areas relieves stress and thus helps to overcome anxiety;
  • It gives a nice stretchy effect on calves, hamstrings, and lower back;
  • Has healing effect for high blood pressure.

Modifications

Beginners: Use a strap to hold your feet. Also, many beginners use a folded blanket or towel under their sitting bones for proper pelvis position. Don’t force your body to go deeper into the pose; use your breath to relax muscles and open up in the pose.
If you’re very stiff, use Legs up the wall position to prepare yourself to the fold in a safe way.

Advanced: Place a block behind your soles and try to reach it. Include active stretching into your practice by lifting your hands as you inhale and folding and reading the block as you exhale.

Precautions

Not recommended if you have asthma and back injury.

Common Mistakes

If you’re a beginner, you probably will be eager to reach toes by any means. Still, that is not the goal of this position. Lengthening and stretching the front of the torso and lower back is what you should focus on. To do that, let your thighs become a support for your belly to allow your lower back to relax more. Fold in the hips and not in the waist.

Another move that contributes to the rounded back is the forehead that reaches towards the knees. Instead, gaze in front of you and focus your sight in the middle of your feet.

About

Stephanie started her yoga journey back in 2018 in an Ashtanga class. She likes to experiment and try new challenging postures and yoga tricks. When off the mat, sharing yoga lifehacks is another thing to do. She believes that energy settled in a safe and physically correct form can make you feel better not only in your body but deep inside your soul too.