This is one of my favourite forward bends, it may look to be one of the more simple postures, but it is also one of the most important. The scriptures say that paschimothanasan practiced in the correct manor and with the right intention can bring relief and healing to all ailments – ‘ This most excellent of asanas, paschimothanasan makes the breath flow through the Sushumna nadi, rouses the gastric fire, makes the loins lean and removes all diseases.’ -Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
I love the meditative nature of this pose, bringing equal amounts of awareness to the posture and the breath, allowing your heart to surrender within will bring you to a sense of peace and inner quiet. It requires a conscious control to bring the body into alignment – the toes, knees and neck in the correct line, and by breathing deeply and focusing on that flow of breath it helps us to let go, allowing the body to be taken down by gravity giving us a sense of detachment which is vital for meditation. That sense of detachment can then be applied in our daily lives, what we learn on the mat doesn’t mean it stays on the mat, apply that to our every moment in our daily lives and we find that things become stress free and simpler, causing less suffering.
This wonderful posture calms and soothes the entire nervous system and gives an internal massage to the abdomen and abdominal organs, joints are mobilized, the spine increases its elasticity and a sense of youthfulness is gained.
This posture can also be quite challenging for many people, as they think they have to push themselves as far down as they can to be any good at it, this is such wrong thinking. However you are in the pose is how it is, there is no good or bad in effect, as long as we have awareness of body alignment and breath, then think what is happening to our minds no matter where you are in the pose. I believe that this pose allows us to see many obstacles that are hiding our sense of true happiness, then we can start to address those obstacles removing them slowly one by one, like peeling an onion!
Other benefits include the aiding of the digestion, constipation is relieved by the digestive fire being invigoratied. There is invigoration to all the internal organs especially kidneys, liver and pancreas. This invigoration to the pancreas controls blood sugar levels and carbohydrate metabolism, it is an invaluable pose for those suffering with diabetes. And there is a complete stretch to the whole of the back of the body from the toes through the feet, calf muscles, hamstrings, through all the muscles in the back to the neck. Wonderful hey! So here is how –
- Sit up straight with the legs stretched out in front of you the toes flexing back towards the body, take out the flesh from under the buttocks and sit on the sitting bones, head, neck and back in a straight line.
- On an inhalation raise both arms up beside your ears reaching up as high as you can to lift out of your hips.
- Exhale and fold forwards from the hips, keeping the spine as straight as you can, try to keep working the crown of the head forward to keep the sine straight, not rounding. Place your hands where they fall i.e on your knees, shins or ankles or if flexibility is there, hold onto your toes.
- Breathe deep inhalations and longer exhalations feeling a sense of surrender with every exhalation.
- To come out of the posture, on an inhalation reach forward with the arms and then gently lift the upper body back up.
Some common mistakes to be aware of are allowing the feet to fall apart, keep the feet together and the toes flexing upward. The head is bowed – keep the crown of the head pushing forward. And the rounding of the back, I see this all the time, so really have an awareness of keeping the spine straight, that way the energy can flow more freely.
So let us remain forever youthful with paschimothanasan, enjoy see you on the mat!
Om Lokha Somasta Sukinho Bhavantu
May we all find peace, balance and harmony
Mangala / Nicky