Paschimottanasana or the Seated Forward Bend pose is a ‘forward bend asana. This pose requires a considerable amount of flexibility in the back, abdomen, and legs which is why it is not considered to be one of the best yoga poses for beginners. However, this does not mean that yoga beginners cannot do this pose; if you are flexible enough to do Paschimottanasana, you can include it in your routine. The term Paschimottanasana is a combination of the words paschima (the Sanskrit word for ‘west’ – meaning the back of the body), uttana (meaning extended), and asana (meaning posture).Paschimottanasana is also known as the Intense Dorsal Stretch pose as it engages the dorsal muscles of the back. The dorsal muscle (often referred to as ‘lats’ among fitness enthusiasts) is the largest muscle on the back and is located below the shoulder blades. Paschimottanasana helps to ease and prevent back pain by increasing the flexibility of this muscle which is why it is one of the most commonly recommended yoga postures for people with sedentary jobs as it strengthens the back and improves posture. You can start with a routine that includes yoga exercises for beginners as well as basic yoga poses and once you are proficient in these, you can move on to more challenging asanas such as Paschimottanasana.
How To Perform Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
Paschimottanasanamust be performed at least 4-6 hours after a meal and it is preferable that your stomach (and bowels) are empty at this time. This means that it would be best to include it in your morning yoga routine. You should perform a few preparatory asanas as this will prepare you both physically and mentally to perform Paschimottanasana. You can learn a few Paschimottanasana prep poses such asUttanasana (Intense Forward-Bending pose), Janusirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose), and Balasanabefore you learn how to do Seated Forward Bend pose.Balasana is one of the best basic yoga poses as it helps to gently stretch and strengthen the muscles of your legs and back.
How To Perform The Seated Forward Bend Pose In 6 Steps:
1. Sit in an upright position with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Keep the soles of your feet straight with your toes pointed towards the ceiling.
2. Inhale and slowly raise your arms over your head with your palms facing forward. Keep your back straight as you stretch and take a deep breath.
3. Exhale and slowly bend forward keeping your spine straight. Your spine, neck, and your arms should be aligned.
4. Stretch out your arms and let them reach the furthest they can along your legs. Depending on how flexible you are, you can either wrap your palms around the soles of your feet or hold your big toes gently. Your elbows should touch the floor.
5. Complete your forward fold until your forehead is nestled against your shins.
6. Stay in this position for 5-10 seconds or longer if possible.
Follow these steps carefully and do not make any changes to them. It is important to follow the Paschimottanasana sequence of steps to maximise the effects of this asana.
How To Release From Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
To release from Paschimottanasana, raise your arms and torso until you are upright once again with your arms stretched out above your head. Hold this position as you inhale deeply and then exhale and bring your hands back down by your sides. You can move to a simple meditative pose such as Sukhasana (Easy pose) or Padmasana (Lotus pose), or you can move into a yoga counterpose such as Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), or Matsyasana (Fish Pose).When moving from Paschimottanasana to any other pose, make sure that your movements are slow and smooth.
Similar Poses To Paschimottanasana
There are a few other poses that are similar to Paschimottanasanaand you can include them in your yoga routine to relieve any tension in your back and thighs.
Padangusthasana – Big Toe pose
Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend pose
Kapotasana – Pigeon pose
These poses will enhance the benefits of Paschimottanasanaand will help to quiet your mind and relax your muscles.
Benefits Of Paschimottanasana
Stretches the shoulders, spine and hamstrings
Tones the abdomen by working on your core stomach muscles
Improves the functioning of the kidneys and liver
Practice this asana regularly to relieve constipation
Helps to regulate blood pressure and improve circulation
Relieves stress and reduces anxiety and fatigue
Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines to increase muscle flexibility and body tone while also eliminating stress and anxiety. Yoga for strengthening back muscles has become increasingly popular as most people spend a lot of their day sitting in an office chair.
While there are many benefits of Paschimottanasana, it is most often recommended for people with weak back muscles as it is one of the best back strengthening yoga asanas. One of the main causes of chronic shoulder pain and chronic back pain is the tightening of the dorsal muscles; since Paschimottanasanaincreases the flexibility of the dorsal muscle, including it in your daily yoga routine will ensure that you do not develop these health problems.
There are several Paschimottanasana variations depending on whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced practitioner. If you are not very flexible, you can use a short scarf to help you hold this position. Instead of holding your heels with your hands, you can wrap the ends of the scarf around each of your wrists and pull it tight across your heels and then continue with the pose as usual. This is one of the best modifications of Paschimottanasanafor beginners and people with weak arms. While there are several yoga poses that work wonders for pregnant women, you will need to avoid this pose when you are pregnant.
Paschimottanasana is both physically challenging and mentally taxing as it requires immense focus and determination. One of the most common mistakes made by yoga beginners is to only focus on the physical changes in each pose and ignore the mental focus aspect of the asana. However, with regular yoga practice you will be able to overcome this problem.
Contraindications Of Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
While the benefits and importance of Paschimottanasana are immense, there are certain circumstances when you should avoid this pose.
Avoid practicing this asana if you suffer from asthma or anyrespiratory problem or if you’ve recently had any type of stomach surgery. You would also have to skip this if you are pregnant or if you have diarrhea. If you have any back or spinal problem, make sure that you perform Paschimottanasana under the supervision of a yoga instructor. The Seated Forward Bend pose for beginners generally consists of the same steps but the amount of time spent in this position is much shorter.
Tips For Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
Do not try to exert too much pressure when stretching as you could strain your muscles. Focus on managing the pose to the best of your abilities and in time, you will find that you are able to do this pose perfectly.