Paschimottanasana, translated as “Western Intense Stretch Posture”, is the first seated forward bend in the Ashtanga Primary Series. More demanding than the standing forward folds, these seated asanas may challenge you both physically and mentally at first.
Paschimottanasana has three variations (A,B and C). A is the one illustrated here, where the big toes are grabbed with the first two fingers. In variation B, we hold the backs of our feet by wrapping our hands around them, and in variation C we go even further by grabbing one wrist with the opposite hand behind the foot.
Ideally we do the variations in sequence, progressing through the increased levels of difficulty until we can reach our wrists.
- Stretches the spine and hamstrings
- Improves digestion
- Tones the abdominal and pelvic organs
- Regulates and balances menstrual cycles
- Relieves stress
- Decreases anxiety, irritability and anger
- Calms the mind
- Digestive disorder
DO NOT DO THIS POSE IF:
- You are pregnant
- You have sciatica
- You have a slipped disk
- You have an ulcer
The legs should be fully engaged, as should the abdominal muscles. The shoulders should be drawn back and down, while keeping the spine long and the legs engaged, with the toes pulling back towards you.
Don’t lead with the nose! Trying to get your nose to touch your shins will create rounding in the back and will collapse your chest, while potentially injuring your lower spine and straining your shoulders/neck.
Your aim should be to lead with the sternum (chest), aiming to eventually get your chin onto your shins. This will protect and strengthen your lower back, keeping the spine long and the shoulders back.