is my favourite yoga pose – despite not being able to get very deep into the pose.
I have for years been sitting with a straight back and only just been able to grab hold of my toes. And I very clearly remember 10 years ago living in Sydney, when my yoga teacher at the time walked past me sitting in this pose and he almost absentmindedly asked me: “what are you waiting for?” Good question – what was I waiting for?
I guess I always thought that as long as I did enough passive stretching, then one day I would miraculously open up and be able to do the pose perfectly. Recently, during my 200 hour yoga teacher training at Tirisula Yoga, I have come to realize that a lot of poses actually requires me to actively use my muscles to pull myself deeper into a pose, which will then in effect stretch my tight muscles.
So in my current Paschimottanasana pose I’m still not very deep, but at least I’m not “waiting” anymore, but actively trying to go deeper.
To actively get deeper into Paschimotttanasana, it is important to remember to use three muscle groups:
- When your yoga teacher says “lift the chest up” you should engage the pectoralis major muscles to really lift up.
- When you yoga teacher says “keep the spine straight” you should engage your back muscles to really keep that spine straight enough to reach far out over your legs.
- And most importantly – when your yoga teacher says ”tuck the belly in” you should engage the uddiyana bandha and at the same time actively get your abdominal muscles to lift your diaphragm further up.
This all means you have a “longer” upper body to then fold forward over your legs, which gives you a good start for trying to get the head past the knees. And at the same time the “tucked tummy” also makes more space for the lower belly area to get in contact with the thighs.
Another reason why this is my favourite pose is how well stretched I feel afterwards. This “master stretcher pose” works not only on the calves, hamstrings, gluteal muscles and the back, but also on the extensors of knee, foot and neck.
And with my slightly uneven posture, which can put stress on my lower spine, hips and pelvis, this forward bend is a great corrective asana.
Lastly Paschimottanansana also feels very comforting for the whole of the pelvic region, as it tones the abdominal area including liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and adrenal glands.