Paschimottanasa – Seated Forward Bend

This asana stretches the entire posterior part of the body; calves, hamstrings, gluteal muscles and spine. If you are not innately flexible, attempting this asana may be discouraging. But don’t despair, constant practice will help elongate the spine and also increase the flexibility in the hip joints.

A common belief is that one would only need looser hamstrings to access this asana. Tight hamstrings definitely will affect how far one can reach, you may find that you aren’t even able to reach past your knees. However, they aren’t the only body part that needs working on to achieve this pose. Attention has to be paid to the hips as well, as tight hips will prevent one from going deeper into the forward bend.

In this asana, the hip needs to tilt anteriorly so that the upper body can hinge forward and a deeper bend can be achieved. With a deeper bend, it would be easier to also reach further forward. When the hips are tight, practitioners tend to round their shoulders and stretch their arms to reach further forward. Instead, the spine should be lengthened and straight as the torso hinges forward from the hips. Even if practitioners are unable to reach for their toes, it is important to maintain a straight and flat back wherever they are in the pose.

Beginners with tight hamstrings and hips can use a block and/or strap to help fold deeper into the pose. The beginner can sit on the block to help hinge forward from the hips and a strap can also be looped around the feet to help the beginner reach further.

Benefits:
Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries and uterus
Improves digestion
Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort

Contraindications:
Asthma
Diarrhea
Spinal injuries

Complementary asanas:
Other asanas can also be practiced to enhance the loosening of hamstrings and hips. Adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), baddha konasana (bound angle pose) and pagangusthasana (big toe pose) help lengthen and strengthen tight hamstrings. For tight hips, anjaneyasana (low lunge pose) and pigeon pose are effective to increase external rotation and lengthen the hip flexors.

 

Gen