Paschimottanasana (forward bend pose)
1. Sit on the floor with the legs outstretched, feet together and hands on the knees. This is the starting position.
2. Relax the whole body. Slowly bend forward from the hips, sliding the hands down the legs.
3. Try to grasp the big toes with the fingers and thumbs.
4. If this is impossible, hold the heels, ankles or any part of the legs that can be reached comfortably.
5. Move slowly without forcing or jerking. Hold the position for a few seconds.
6. Relax the back and leg muscles allowing them to gently stretch.
7. Keeping the legs straight and utilising the arm muscles, not the back muscles, begin to bend the elbows and gently bring the trunk down towards the legs, maintaining a firm grip on the toes, feet or legs.
8. Try to touch the knees with the forehead. Do not strain. This is the final position. Hold the position for as long as is comfortable and relax. Slowly return to the starting position.
This is one round.
Note: While holding, maintain normal breathing.
Breathing: Inhale in the starting position. Exhale slowly while bending forward. Inhale in the static position. Exhale while bringing the trunk further towards the legs with the arms. Breathe slowly and deeply in the final position or retain the breath out if holding for a short duration. Inhale while returning to the starting position.
Duration: Beginners should perform up to 5 rounds, staying in the final position for only a short length of time. Adepts may maintain the final position for up to 5 minutes.
Physical - on the abdomen, relaxation of the back muscles or the slow breathing process.
Spiritual - on swadhisthana chakra.
Sequence: This asana should precede or follow backward bending asanas such as setuasana, chakrasana, bhujangasana or matsyasana.
Contra-indications: People who suffer from slipped disc or sciatica should not practise paschimottanasana.
Benefits: This asana stretches the hamstring muscles and increases flexibility in the hip joints. It tones and massages the entire abdominal and pelvic region including the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and adrenal glands. It removes excess weight in this area and helps alleviate disorders of the uro-genital system. It stimulates circulation to the nerves and muscles of the spine. It is used in yoga therapy for the management of prolapse, menstrual disorders, sluggish liver, diabetes, colitis, kidney complaints, bronchitis and eosinophilia.