Paschima = Western · Uttana = Intense stretch · Asana = Pose Intense Western Stretch Pose (also Seated Forward Bend)
BENEFITS Stretches the back of your entire body, from your heels to your head; helps to open your hips; strengthens your agni (digestive fire); creates a state of inner calm
Before exploring any particular asana, first complete at least three rounds of Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation A).
For Paschimottanasana, begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). At the end of an exhalation, step (or jump) to a seated position.
Straighten your legs and place your hands next to the flesh of your outer hips. Bring your legs together with the insides of your feet touching. Flex your feet by drawing your toes toward you, and simultaneously press out through the balls of your feet. Activate your thigh muscles by drawing them up, away from your kneecaps. Draw your low belly softly toward your spine. Let your shoulders move back, and begin to breathe into your chest and your entire rib cage.
Keeping the activation of your legs and low belly, reach forward to hold your big toes, the sides of your feet, or a wrist beyond your flexed feet.
Maintaining the hold, inhale and lift your chest, lengthening your abdomen and sides. Gently relax your shoulders away from your ears.
As you exhale, begin to move deeper into a forward fold. Try not to pull with your arms. Instead, keep your shoulders relaxed. Bend your elbows and bow your head, gazing toward your legs. Relax your neck and let your breath move freely.
Keep gently drawing your low belly toward your spine, lifting your waist off your thighs. On inhalations, feel a broadening of your chest and a lengthening in the front of your torso. On exhalations, feel a widening in your upper back as you continue to relax your shoulders. Hold for at least 5 breaths. To exit the posture, inhale and lengthen your torso upward while straightening your arms. Complete a full exhalation before releasing your feet.
DON’T let your feet or knees turn out. This overstretches your inner knees and brings the stretch out of the belly of your hamstrings, closer to your joints.
DON’T round and harden your back, pushing your torso away from your legs. This will create tension and inhibit your breath, which can strain your back.