Paschimotanasana is derived from paschim –west, back, back of body. Uttana means intense, stretch, straight, extended and asana means posture. It is one of the 15 poses outlined in the classic yogic text The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which dates back to the 15th century. It’s a seated forward pose.
*To perform the posture, simply sit on the floor with your legs facing out in front. Begin by sitting in an upright position, rooting down through the sitting bones and reaching the crown of the head towards the ceiling. Keep the legs together, with the ball of the big toes touching.
*Reach the hands forward and take hold of the big toes with index and middle finger. If this is not possible simply place the palms of the hands on the floor next to the legs, or modify the pose with a belt or strap wrapped around the feet.
*On an inhale, lift the chin slightly, expanding through the chest. Then, on an exhale, fold forward, hinging mainly at the hips. Don’t pull with your arms. Rather, move using the deep core muscles of the legs and abdomen.
*Try not to round the back. If the back is rounding excessively, if there is any tension or pressure in the knees, or if the poses are simply uncomfortable, bend the knees generously, or don’t go quite so deep. Keep your breathing normal.
If you find it difficult to practice this asana then first start with the practice of Balasana and Janushirsana . This will help you to develop flexibility and ability to bend forward from the waist. Remember to perform the asana as per your capacity. Do not force yourself to bend forward if you are not flexible enough. You will keep getting better with regular practice.
Most students should sit up on a folded blanket in this pose, and most beginners need to hold a strap around the feet. Extremely stiff students can place a rolled up blanket under their knees.
Once you are fully in the forward bend you can re-extend the elbows. There are several ways to do this. You can clasp your hands around the soles of the feet, or turn the back of one hand to the soles and grip its wrist with the other hand. You can also place a block against the soles of your feet and grip its sides with your hands.
Flexibility of 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.
Strengthens the Back
Paschimottanasana is a great way to strengthen the erector spine muscles of the lower back and help to encourage an energetic and upright posture.
Reduces anxiety and helps with sleep
The asana is used in restorative Yoga. Often props are used in this asana, either 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. It relaxes the nervous system.
Works on belly fat
This asana helps to remove the belly fat and can contribute to weight loss. Of course, you need a complete holistic practice that includes mindful diet and lifestyle choices. However, emphasizing forward bending postures may be helpful.
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.
Pregnant women should never ever attempt this asana as you have to bend forward. If you have a Slipped disc problem then avoid this asana as it puts a lot of problem on the lower back. Someone suffering from spondylisis should also avoid this asana