Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend)
Paschimottanasana, Sitting Forward Bend
पश्चिमोत्तानासन / Paścimottānāsana
paschim : “west, back, back of body”
uttana: “intense stretch, straight, extended”
Paschimottanasana (PASH-ee-moh-tan-AH-suh-nuh) is one of the best traditional forward bending poses.
This pose strengthens the spinal muscles, nourishes the entire nervous system, increases lumbar spine elasticity, and relieves spinal compression and sciatica. It also massages and stimulates the abdominal organs, increases peristalsis, relieves constipation and other problems, counteracts obesity and enlargement of the spleen and liver, regulates pancreatic function, and helps in diabetes and hypoglycemia.
It also tones the hamstring muscles and increases flexibility of the hip joints.
This pose also nourishes the gonads (as the extra stretch in the pelvic region brings more blood to that area), increases vitality, removes seminal weakness, cures impotency and helps in sex sublimation.
Paschim means “west,” and in yogic anatomy we identify the back body as the west. The back body holds all the major muscles, though we generally tend to neglect what can’t see. By practicing this asana we become more aware of our surroundings and inner self. The asana also makes us bend forward and rest the head close to the feet. This reminds us to keep our ego down. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, Paschimottanasana enhances concentration and mental endurance, and invigorates and calms the mind and nervous system, thus, controlling many nervous system complaints. This asana also aids in cultivating a meditative mind.
Those with a disc-related condition or sciatica should avoid this pose or enter it cautiously. Keep the back concaved to avoid further compression. Women who are menstruating or pregnant should not go all the way down to the legs but keep the back concaved with the feet apart and abdomen soft. Sit on a folded blanket if hamstrings are tight.
Going into the Pose
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali) and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur).