Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend

Benefits, Contraindications, Tips and How to Do

English Name(s)
Paschimottanasana, Seated Forward Bend
Sanskrit
पश्चिमोत्तानासन / Paścimottānāsana
Pronunciation
PASH-ee-moh-tan-AH-suh-nuh
Meaning
paschim : “west, back, back of body”
uttana: “intense stretch, straight, extended”
āsana: “posture”

Introduction

Paschimottanasana (PASH-ee-moh-tan-AH-suh-nuh), or the Seated Forward Bend, is one of the most important poses in all of Hatha Yoga.

It is one of the 15 poses outlined in the classic yogic text The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which dates back to the 15th century, and is common to virtually all systems of Asana, or postural practice; from slow-paced restorative styles to vigorous flowing styles.

Yoga may be an effective way for athletes to improve their balance and flexibility. The results of this study suggest as much, with yogis demonstrating improved measures in these two specific components after only 10 weeks!

Muscle Focus

Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend works on several muscles such as

  • Hamstrings
  • Calf muscles
  • Core (Abdominal Muscles)
  • Psoas
  • Arms (Biceps)
  • Back (Trapezius and Latissimus Dorsi)
  • Glutes

Ideal For Health Conditions

  • Helps to relieve digestion-related issues.
  • Helps to alleviate aches and pain caused by tight hamstring muscles.
  • Helps to relieve digestion-related issues.

Benefits Of Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend

1. Lengthens the Hamstrings

The most obvious effect of Paschimottanasana is that it stretches the back of the leg. Tight hamstrings can often lead to a hunched, rounded posture and could be an indirect cause of back injury. If the muscles of the leg aren’t sufficiently elastic, it can also put a strain on the knee and hip joint. Paschimottanasana can help to maintain the legs’ natural range of motion.

2. Strengthens the Back

When performed in an active way, lengthening through the front of the body. Paschimottanasana is a great way to strengthen the erector spinae muscles of the lower back and help to encourage an energetic and upright posture.

3. Reduces Anxiety and Overwhelm

Paschimottanasana is one of the key poses of both Yin and Restorative Yoga. In these systems, it is performed in a passive variation, often with props placed under the sitting bones, under the knees, or between the trunk and the legs. When held for a long period of time, this pose has a calming effect on the nervous system and encourages deep release and relaxation.

4. Prepares The Body For Meditation

Paschimottanasana encourages a strong, upright posture conducive to meditation. At the same time, it increases blood flow, which has an energizing effect and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a calm and focused mind. This combination of invigoration and relaxation is ideal for states of meditation.

5. Helps with Sleep

Since Paschimottanasana relaxes the nervous system, it can be used to help with symptoms of insomnia if used correctly. It’s important to do the pose restoratively, without pushing or pulling, and it’s also important to do it at least 2 hours before you intend to fall asleep. Because of the increased blood flow and the stimulation of the lower energy centers, the initial effects may be invigorating, and they will need some time to pass for sleep to come easily.

6. Stimulates Digestion and Appetite

According to the Hatha Yoga PradipikaPaschimottanasana “stimulates the gastric fire.” Though the evidence is anecdotal, most long-term yogis know from personal experience that a lot of forward bending stimulates both digestion and appetite. The pose gently massages the intestines and the organs of the abdominal region, helping to clear out blockages and relieve bloating.

7. Sexual Health

Performed correctly, with the engagement of the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominis muscles of the lower abdomen, Paschimottanasana increases blood flow to the reproductive organs and can help to increase sexual vitality and relieve mild impotence.

8. Counteracts Obesity

It is said in numerous texts, including the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, that Paschimottanasana helps to remove the belly fat and can contribute to weight loss. It’s important to note that the best way to lose weight with yoga is a complete holistic practice that includes a mindful diet and lifestyle choices. However, emphasizing forward bending postures may be helpful.

9. Relieves Menstrual Discomfort

By stimulating blood flow to the pelvic region, a gentle, restorative version of Paschimottanasana can help to relieve symptoms of cramping and bloating associated with menstruation. Try placing a bolster or pillow over your lap first to reduce pressure in the abdomen.

10. Encourages Contemplation and Self-Reflection

There is a subtle energetic aspect of this pose that is easily overlooked. By drawing our attention to the back of the body and taking a bowed posture where the front of the body is drawn in on itself, we adopt a gesture of surrender and introversion. By focusing our attention away from the external world we can balance out some of the energies of striving and ambition that can help to feed our anxieties.

Contraindications

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 the abdomen soft. Sit on a folded blanket if hamstrings are tight.

Variations

  • Janusirasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)
  • Yin Yoga Caterpillar Pose

Preparatory Pose

  • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
  • Marjarasana-Bitilasan (Cat and Cow Pose)
  • Janusirasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)

Beginner’s Tips

  • If you are unable to touch your toes, use a yoga strap around the soles of the feet and hold onto the strap with both hands.
  • If you find the pose too strenuous, sit with your back against a wall and gradually lower your head to the floor.
  • You can also do this pose with your legs slightly bent.

How to do Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend

  • We will begin by assuming the Dandasana by sitting down on the yoga mat with legs extended out in front of us.
  • Once we are seated, we will take a few deep breaths to relax the body and mind.
  • On an inhale breath, we will raise our arms up overhead.
  • As we exhale, we will hinge forward from the hips keeping a flat back as best as possible.
  • We can also keep the back as straight as possible by engaging the core muscles.
  • If we are unable to touch our toes, we can use a yoga strap around the soles of the feet and hold onto the strap with both hands.
  • We can also place our hands on either side of the legs.
  • Once we are in the forward bend, we will take a few deep breaths.
  • On an inhale breath, we will lengthen the spine, and on an exhale breath, we will move the navel closer to the knees.
  • We can stay in this position for up to one minute.
  • To release the pose, we will slowly come back up to sitting on an inhale breath and then exhale as we release the arms back down by our sides.

Mental Benefits of Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend

  • Centering pose.
  • Brings awareness to the present moment.
  • Very calming and soothing, helps to ease anxiety and stress.

Bottom Line

Paschimottanasana is a beginner-friendly yoga pose that offers a host of benefits for both the body and mind. This pose lengthens the hamstrings, strengthens the back, and helps prepare the body for meditation. It also stimulates digestion and appetite, counters obesity, relieves menstrual discomfort, and encourages contemplation and self-reflection. Paschimottanasana is a great pose for all levels of students and can be adapted to meet individual needs and abilities. With a few deep breaths, we can easily enter into this pose and enjoy the many benefits it has to offer.

1 sources
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728955/
Meera Watts
Meera Watts is the owner and founder of Siddhi Yoga. She is known around the world for her thought leadership in the wellness industry and was also recognized as a Top 20 International Yoga Blogger. Her writing on holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and other international magazines. Meera is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, though now she focuses primarily on leading Siddhi Yoga, blogging and spending time with her family in Singapore.

4 thoughts on “Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend

  1. Pashchimotanasan is highly benecial for Diabetes, actually in younger age I was suffering from Diabetes , while there was no in our family ,then I started to practice Uddiyan bandh and Pashchimotanasan for 7-8 months along with dietry restrictions and Diabetes vanished ! Doctors astonished!Now I am 76+ ,and no Diabetes.This is great miracle of Yoga.I was also underweight

  2. i am having Bloating issue very badly while doing this asana and pada hasthasana. can you suggest some tips how can i overcome this problam.
    i am having this problem only when performing the yoga poses only.

    1. Along with the asanas that you are doing, also practice Ardha Pavan Muktasana, Purna Pavan Muktasana, One Leg lift, one leg rotation, and Kati vakrasana. This will help to reduce the Flatulence. Also, drink lukewarm water in the morning after waking up.

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