How To Do The Paschimottanasana And What Are Its Benefits?

Reviewed by Anirudh Gupta, Certified Yoga Instructor
by Shirin Mehdi

Paschimottanasana, Seated Forward Bend, or Intense Dorsal Stretch is an asana. Sanskrit: पश्चिमोत्तानासन; Paschima – West/Back, Uttana – Intense Stretch, Asana – Pose; Pronounced As – POSH-ee-moh-tan-AHS-anna

This seemingly simple asana is a classic Hatha Yoga pose that has many benefits. The  Paschimottanasana covers a whole lot of systems in the body and is particularly useful for diabetes and high blood pressure. This asana also gives the entire body a good stretch. Interestingly, the front part of the body is called the East, and the back is usually called the West. This asana concentrates on the back of the body, and, therefore, it is named as such. In English, this asana is called the Seated Forward Bend or the Intense Dorsal Stretch.

Everything You Need To Know About The Paschimottanasana

  1. What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
  2. How To Do The Paschimottanasana
  3. Precautions And Contraindications
  4. Beginner’s Tip
  5. Advanced Pose Variation
  6. The Benefits Of The Seated Forward Bend
  7. The Science Behind The Paschimottanasana
  8. Preparatory Poses
  9. Follow-Up Poses

What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana

You must make sure to keep your stomach and bowels empty before you practice this asana. Have your meals at least four to six hours before you do the asana so that your food gets digested and there is enough energy for you to expend during the practice.

It is best to practice yoga first thing in the morning after having done some other stretches. This forward fold does not come easily, and the body has to be opened first before attempting this asana. But in the event you cannot work out in the morning, it is alright to practice it in the evening.

Level: Basic
Style: Hatha Yoga
Duration: 30 – 60 seconds
Repetition: None
Stretches: Vertebral column, Shoulders, Hamstrings
Strengthens: Back, Spine

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How To Do The Paschimottanasana

  1. Sit erect (in Dandasana), with your legs, stretched out in front of you. Make sure that your toes are flexed towards you.
  1. Inhale and raise your arms over your head. Stretch.
  1. Exhale and bend forward. Feel the fold from your hip joints. Your chin should move towards your shins.
  1. Stretch out your arms, and let them reach the furthest they can, possibly till your toes. But make sure that you don’t stretch too far.
  1. Inhale. Then, lifting your head slightly, elongate your spine.
  1. Exhale and move your navel towards your knees.
  1. Repeat this a few times. Then, place your head on your legs, and hold the pose.
  1. Inhale and come up back to the sitting position with your arms stretched out.
  1. Exhale and lower your arms.

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Precautions And Contraindications

These are a few points of caution you must keep in mind before you do this asana.

  1. Avoid this asana if you have asthma or diarrhea.
  1. In case you have a back injury, you must make sure to practice this asana only under the guidance of a certified yoga instructor.
  1. Pregnant women can attempt this posture with legs separated (so that the foetus and navel are not compromised) and expand the chest upwards.

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Beginner’s Tip

As a beginner, you must remember never to push yourself if you are not comfortable in a forward bend. This is more important if the asana entails sitting on the floor. When you move forward, and you feel that the space between your navel and pubis is reducing, stop, lift yourself a little, and continue moving forward. As a beginner, your tight hamstring muscles might make it difficult for you to bend too much, and it might look like you are sitting. It’s alright. With practice, your body will become far more flexible.

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Advanced Pose Alteration

To increase the stretch while you are in this asana, you need to re-extend your elbows. To do this, once you are in the asana, you must clasp your hands around the soles of your feet. You could also turn the back of one hand to the sole, and grip the wrist with the other hand.

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The Benefits Of The Seated Forward Bend

These are some amazing benefits of Paschimottanasana.

  1. This asana calms the mind and also relieves mild depression and stress.
  1. The shoulders, spine, and hamstrings get a good stretch.
  1. The kidneys, liver, uterus, and ovaries are activated.
  1. Practicing this asana regularly helps improve digestion.
  1. This asana can offer relief during menopause and menstrual discomfort.
  1. Anxiety, headaches, and fatigue are reduced.
  1. High blood pressure, insomnia, infertility, and sinusitis can be cured with this asana.
  1. Paschimottanasana is said to cure diseases, increase appetite, and reduce obesity.
  1. This asana works particularly well for women after they have delivered a child.

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The Science Behind The Paschimottanasana

This asana gives the back part of the body a good stretch, all the way from the ankles to the head. The muscles of the anterior part of the body are contracted, and this creates pressure on the abdomen and thorax, thereby, improving respiratory functions and the functioning of the intra-abdominal glands, specifically focusing on secretions. The flexibility in the lumbar region, the thighs, and the hips is improved. There is an enhancement in the circulation of the blood in the back, and the nerves of the spinal cord are toned. This asana also helps reduce fat in the hips, thighs, and abdomen region. This asana purifies the Nadis and also stimulates the Kundalini Shakti.

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Preparatory Poses

Janu Sirsasana

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Follow-Up Poses

Ardha Matsyendrāsana

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Now that you know how to do seated forward bend pose, what are you waiting for? The Paschimottanasana is extremely relaxing. It’s amazing how there is so much going on (stretching, toning, strengthening), and you still manage to feel so refreshed and relaxed. That is the power of yoga.

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Shirin Mehdi

A jack of many trades and a master of some, Shirin is a writer, a fashion designer, and a chef by her own acclaim. She loves food, and though she might want to call herself a great cook, she just falls short of seasoning. She also loves Yoga, and has extensive knowledge about the postures of the asanas. Always muddled up between traditions and modernism, she thinks she would have been a better fit in the vintage era. She loves life and believes in living it up to the fullest.