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How to Practice Paschimottanasana

How to Practice Paschimottanasana

What is Paschimottanasana?

‘Paschimottanasana’ is known as the ‘Seated Forward Fold’. This asana is done in a seated position by folding the upper body over the lower body and bringing the head and arms close to the thighs, calves or knees. The asana works on stretching the entire back of the body and improves flexibility in the lower back, spine and hips. It releases tension in the back and mind. 

In this article, we will dive deeper into paschimottanasana procedure benefits and contraindications that will help you to practice the posture better.


Paschimottanasana benefits

Paschimottanasana is one of the best asanas to practice. The popular text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) says, “By this asana the pranic currents rise through sushumna nadi, the digestive fire increases, the abdomen becomes flat, and the practitioner becomes free from diseases.”

This verse goes on to show the importance and popularity of Paschimottanasana. HYP claims it activates the manipura chakra (in the solar plexus) and releases the prana (life force) through the sushumna nadi. This strengthens the digestive organs and tract. 

The benefits of Paschimottanasana can be felt only after practicing regularly. This seated forward bend pose stretches the whole spinal column and stimulates the central nervous system (the system through which sushumna nadi is said to pass through). It enables the nervous and pranic impulses to pass directly up to the higher centers. This energizes, yet relaxes the mind and body, releasing stress and tension. It balances the central nervous system, that is, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Therefore, the asana calms the brain cells and reduces stress, anxiety and depression. 

The entire back, shoulder, arm and leg muscles get a toning effect due to the good stretch obtained in the asana. There is no excessive strain, but rather a controlled and relaxing stretch. The visceral organs are massaged, particularly the pancreas, spleen, kidney, liver, reproductive organs, adrenal glands and abdominal muscles. Thus, the Paschimottanasana is very beneficial in the yogic management of digestive disorders, especially diabetes, constipation, flatulence, and loss of appetite. The reproductive organs are toned and sexual disorders can be relieved. For women, the asana is very good for correcting menstrual irregularities, stimulating the ovaries and uterus, and helps in managing PCOS/ PCOD

Paschimottanasana benefits also extend to the dynamic form, where a forward and backward movement is involved. This helps remove excess fat deposits from the abdomen and thighs. When there is a lot of tension in the body and mind, paschimottanasana helps remove it by regulating the adrenal glands and balancing the nervous system. Thus, this seated forward bend pose promotes health and harmony.

Position type: Sitting

Posture type: Forward fold

Ideal for: Flexibility 

Targets: Back and hips

Pose level: Beginner

How can you prepare for Paschimottanasana 

Hip flexibility

Hip flexibility is most important in this asana. Practice standing forward fold, triangle pose, lunges and hip openers like bound angle pose, garland pose, bow pose and pigeon pose regularly. Initially you might find that you can fold forward too much. Do what you can and focus on improving your hip flexibility. 

Triangle Pose

Lower back flexibility

This is also useful for the seated forward fold. Practice the cobra pose, locust pose, camel pose, and standing forward fold to improve flexibility. You can also do the dynamic movement of Paschimottanasana which involves going forward and backward a few times, like in surya namaskar, before bending forward and staying still.

Camel Pose

How to practice Paschimottanasana 

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Paschimottanasana steps include the following. 

Getting into the posture

  1. Sit up with the legs stretched out straight in front of you (Dandasana). Keep the spine straight and toes pointing upwards. 
  2. Inhale, raise both arms above your head and stretch up. As you exhale, bend forward from the hip, chin moving toward the toes. Keep the spine erect. Focus on moving forwards towards the toes, rather than down towards the knees.
  3. Place your hands on your legs, wherever they reach. Do not try to force yourself closer to the thighs if it is difficult. If you can, grab hold of your toes and pull on them to help you inch forward a little. You can also grab your calves if that’s where you’re comfortable. 
  4. Breathe in, keep your head straight and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, gently try to take your naval closer to the knees. Engage your core and try to use your breath to go deeper into the posture. 

Getting out of the posture

  1. Release the grip; inhale, raise both the arms up and lift the chin and chest as well 
  2. Breathe out, lower your arms and come back to Dandasana.

Paschimottanasana variations

Here are two paschimottanasana variations that you can practice.

Easy variation

  1. As a beginner, keep the knees bent and rest the chest on the knees
  2. Hold the shin/ankle, try bringing the head down as close as possible 

Advance variation

  1. Bringing the chin to the shin and looking up towards the toes.

What are the contraindications of Paschimottanasana? 

Anyone suffering with slip disc, back pain, hamstring injuries or sciatica should avoid the asana. Those with asthma, diarrhea and abdominal ulcers also should avoid the pose as it adds pressure on the abdomen. Paschimottanasana pose should be avoided during pregnancy. 

Counter poses of Paschimottanasana

Since this is a deep forward fold it is best to practice an asana that stretches out the back in the reverse direction. The counter pose for paschimottanasana is Purvottanasana, the reverse plank pose which is a good option. You can also follow it up with backbends like camel pose, Ustrasana or cobra pose, Bhujangasana


What are the safety precautions for Paschimottanasana? 

Flex your feet and press your heels forward. This will help keep the thighs active and engaged. Keep your core muscles engaged to hold the asana. Bend your knees and just the required amount. Slowly with practice the hamstrings will loosen up then you can start straightening the legs. 

Advice for beginners

The asana is more difficult to do in the morning than in the evening. This is because the back muscles and nerves have not had time to loosen up too much in the morning. They might still be a little stiff and hence flexibility will be lesser. It is best to practice the asana after doing other asanas or a few physical movements so that the spine and hamstrings are sufficiently supple. 

Practice tips for Paschimottanasana

  1. Lengthen the spine and avoid curving or hunching at all times. Look straight, instead of down, as this will help keep your spine straight.                      
  2. Pull the stomach in and engage the core before you bend forward.    
  3. The knees must be kept straight throughout the practice. If it is not possible to bring the head down without bending the knees, then bend the knees just a little bit and bring the head down as far as is comfortable and hold the knees or calf muscles.            
  4. The whole body should be relaxed in the final position and your breathing should be deep.

Shvasa Tip 

This is a deep forward bend. Practice standing forward fold - uttanasana first before practicing Paschimottanasana in any class. Do it at least twice in each class. Practice carefully with a teacher to learn the right alignments and avoid any injuries. Be gentle with your back and don’t push yourself to go too deep too fast. 

How to do paschimottanasana easily?
To perform Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) with ease, start by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Take a deep breath, lengthen your spine, and engage your core. As you exhale, bend from the hips, not the waist, and reach your hands toward your feet. If you can't reach your feet comfortably, bend your knees slightly or use a strap for assistance. Focus on gradual progress rather than forcing yourself into the stretch. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 20-30 seconds, feeling the gentle stretch.
Which is the counter posture of paschimottanasana?
To complement Paschimottanasana, a deep forward fold, incorporate Purvottanasana (Reverse Plank Pose) to stretch the back in the opposite direction. Follow it up with backbends like Ustrasana (Camel Pose) or Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) to further open and strengthen the back. These poses create a balanced practice, promoting flexibility and stability in the spine. Remember to practice mindfully and listen to your body's limits.
Who should not do paschimottanasana?
Anyone suffering with slip disc, back pain, hamstring injuries or sciatica should avoid the asana. Those with asthma, diarrhea and abdominal ulcers also should avoid the pose as it adds pressure on the abdomen. Paschimottanasana pose should be avoided during pregnancy.
What are the benefits of paschimottanasana?
Paschimottanasana is a highly beneficial yoga pose, praised in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for its numerous advantages. This seated forward bend stretches the spine and stimulates the central nervous system, promoting a flow of pranic energy through the sushumna nadi. Regular practice calms the mind, reduces stress, and releases tension. The pose tones the muscles of the back, shoulders, arms, and legs without excessive strain. It massages the internal organs, benefiting the digestive system, and is especially useful for managing digestive disorders, diabetes, and menstrual irregularities. The dynamic version aids in removing excess fat deposits from the abdomen and thighs, while also balancing the adrenal glands and the nervous system. Overall, Paschimottanasana contributes to improved health, harmony, and well-being.

How to Practice Paschimottanasana
Pradeep Sattamaya

Pradeep is the Global Head of Yoga at Shvasa. He is currently pursuing his studies in Yoga texts, Ayurveda and modern Neuroscience. Pradeep successfully built a chain of yoga studios in Bangalore which was later acquired by a major Health/Fitness brand. He currently resides in Mysore, a heritage city with a close connection to Yoga traditions. Pradeep Sattwamaya (Deep) had the blessed opportunity to be accepted as a disciple by his guru, ParamhamsaSwami Niranjanananda Saraswati ( In the Sanyasa lineage of Shri AdiShankara, Swami Swami Sivananda, Swami Satyananda ). Pradeep spend two full years living and imbibing yoga at Gangadarshan, a traditional Yoga gurukula along the banks of river Ganga in Bihar. He completed first 12 year phase of discipleship in 2016. Pradeep has also practiced and closely studied the Mysore Astanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga.

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