Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) via flckr
Pronunciation: POSH-ee-moh-tan-AHS-anna
Pose Type: Seated

Seated Forward Bend (or fold) is a calming pose that stretches the entire back body from the feet all the way up the spine and into the neck. Paschimottanasana is an excellent stress reliever and is typically practiced later in a yoga sequence, when the body is warmed up. This pose helps the yogi prepare for deeper poses too.

It is believed that ancient yogis practiced this pose facing the sunrise with their back to the west and their faces toward the sun. This pose can be an intense stretch, but it’s important never to force or push into the pose, but to relax into it as you will easily fall deeper into the pose the more you practice it.

If your hands don’t reach the feet, you can wrap a strap around the feet and hold the strap in the hands using gentle pressure to pull the upper body toward the legs. Beginners can also bend their knees during the pose, working toward straightening them out over time.

Pose Sequence

This pose provides a complete stretch along the backside of the body and best done when the body is warm. If the body is not warmed up yet, take this pose slowly and allow the body to relax into it:

  1. Start from a seated position on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Use your hands to pull the flesh away from the sitz bones and allow them to ground into the floor. If the hips are tight, you can sit on the edge of a folded blanket or towel to give your body the space it needs to fold more fully.
  3. Lengthen the spine, reaching the head skyward away from the pelvis, and reaching the hands high.
  4. On an exhale, hinge lightly from the hips and allow the torso to fold forward, keeping the spine as straight as possible and reaching the hands toward the feet.
  5. With each inhale, lift and lengthen the spine; with each exhale, let the body release a little more forward.
  6. If you are able to bend very deeply and rest the front body along the legs, allow the arms and hands to rest along the floor.

Releasing from the pose means rising out of the fold back into seated position.

Benefits of Seated Forward Fold Pose

The benefits of this pose include:

  • Relief from stress and tension for a calmer mind
  • Improved appetite and digestion
  • Relief from menstrual pain and symptoms of menopause
  • Reduced anxiety and fatigue
  • Improved sleep

Paschimottanasana can take years, even decades, to reach the deepest expression of the pose. It is also very easy to injure yourself if you push the body into the pose too much. If you don’t have the flexibility to reach the feet, use the recommended props until you can..

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By Virginia O'Connor

Co-founder of and writer/content manager.