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Paschimottanasana aka Pascimottanasana

Paschimottanasana aka Pascimottanasana

Introduction

Paschimottanasana, also spelled as Pascimottanasana, is one of the seated forward bending yoga position.

Before we dig deep into the details, let us know the importance of this posture.

Almost all the medieval yoga texts mention and describe this posture and list the benefits of practising.

Siva Samhita describes this posture as one of the four important postures. However it calls this posture by name Ugrasana (Stern Pose) and describes it with a little variation.

Yet another Yoga Text Hatha Tattva Kaumudi calls this posture by name Pascimatana Bandha and Pascimatana Asana. The text rates this posture as the best yoga posture.

In a way that is clearly seen by the Yoga Texts, it is one of the important postures.

In this article, let us have a look at its meaning, steps, and benefits.

Paschimottanasana Information

Pose NamePascimottanasana
Sanskritपिशमोतानासन
IASTpascimotänäsana
EnglishThe Posture of Sushumna Nadi
The Posture of Posterior Psychic Energy Path
Intense Dorsal Stretch
Seated Forward Bend
OriginMedieval Period
Hatha Yoga Texts
LevelAdvanced
GroupPascimottanasana
TypeSeated Forward Bend

Pascimottanasana Meaning

Pascimottanasana is the combination of three Sanskrit words: paścima, uttāna, and āsana. paścima means “west” or “the back part” or “dorsal.” uttāna means “straight” or “extended.” āsana is “posture”. It literally means the Extended Dorsal Bend.

Though it is normally translated into English as mentioned above, it is not a right translation as intended by those who named this posture.

The word paścimatāna denotes the Posterior Path or Sushumna Nadi. The practice of this posture activates the said psychic energy channel. This is the reason why this posture has got this name. Hence it is The Posture of Sushumna Nadi.

It may be recalled here that Hatha Tattva Kaumudi call this posture as Pascimatana Asana or Bandha. (Verse 7.42).

The point is Extended-Dorsal-Bend and Intensive-Forward-Bend are not the correct translations; whereas The Posture of Posterior Psychic Energy Path or The Posture of Sushumna is the opt one.

Pascimottanasana Practice Routine

Paschimottanasana Practice Routine includes the precautions, steps, duration, and follow up postures.

Paschimottanasana Safety and Precautions

Pregnant ladies should avoid this posture, since this being is forward bending one.

Bending forward with the rounded low back may harm your lumbar discs. The bend must start from your groin area. Especially, persons with high belly should take care. This is because they tend to bend the lower spine which is not good them.

In other words, you should uplift your sternum and keep your spine straight. The bend must start at a point lower down your spine. Otherwise it may harm your discs. If in doubt, perform this posture under competent supervision.

In initial attempts, keep a folded blanket under your buttock. It will take the burden off an intensive forward bend. Anyway, pay attention to keep your torso upright in a straight line.

Those who already suffer from sciatica pain, degenerated discs, or groin injury, should consult their physician before starting.

Persons having cardiac issues should avoid this posture.

It is highly advisable to perform this postures of this class under competent supervision, say a qualified yoga teacher.

Paschimottanasana Preparatory Postures

Before attempting this posture, one should master the following poses which will help gaining perfection.

Among these postures, Head to Knee Pose is more important. If one gets mastery over Janusirsasana first, it will be more easier for him to perfect Pascimottanasana.

Paschimottanasana Steps

Step 1

As a first step, sit with legs out stretched and closer yet not touching each other. Keep the hands on the knees. Straighten your torso to keep the spine erect. Take a deep breath and expand the chest.

Step 2

While exhaling, bend forward from the hips without making a curve of your lower spine. Try to catch the big toes with thumb and fingers. If not possible, hold the farther most of part of the leg possible. For example hold your ankle. If you raise up your seat with a folded blanket, you can reach out a little farther.

Step 3

Inhale, keeping your legs straightened by your arms without giving any pressure to your back. Exhaling, bend the elbows and slowly bring the torso down towards the legs. Try to touch the knees with your forehead. If not possible, keep it at the maximum possible level. Breathe normally and keep the position as long as possible.

Step 4

Release the position and repeat the steps five times.

Duration

Initial duration of posture in one round may be for thirty seconds to one minute. This can be extended up to four or five minutes per round.

Follow Up Poses

The following poses must be performed after the practice of this posture.

Tips for the beginners

The beginners may find it hard to hold the toes with the hand. Having placed a folded blanket under the buttock may be of little help. Or they may opt to hold the ankle in stead of toes first. It will become easier with repeated practice.

Yet another hurdle is touching the knees with the forehead. One should try to his maximum capacity. Regular practice makes this possible.

Advanced Pose Considerations

The advanced postures mentioned here belong to the group of posterior stretch. Most of them are advanced yoga postures only.

  • Leg Spread Posterior Stretch Pose.
  • Dynamic Posterior Stretch Pose.
  • Half Lotus Posterior Stretch Pose.
  • Unsupported Posterior Stretch Pose.
Paschimottanasana advanced position

Paschimottanasana Benefits

The benefits of Pascimottanasana include the following.

  • This posture is an important counter posture for any backward bending posture.
  • The neck vertebrae is stretched and toned.
  • It stretches the hamstring muscles, calf muscles, pelvic and groin area. This posture makes the hip joints more flexible.
  • This posture gives massage to the internal organs of the abdomen including liver, kidneys, spleen, adrenal glands and improves their functions.
  • It improves digestion.
  • This posture activates Sushumna and hence it is important yoga exercise in Kundalini Yoga.
  • Yoga texts declares that this posture give Vayu Siddhi or Vital Air Control.
  • This is an effective yoga posture for reducing belly fat and serves as an important weight reduction workout.
  • It stimulates the circulation to nerves and muscles of the spine. It activates Parasympathetic Nervous System and helps to drive out Stress and Anxiety.
  • Yoga therapists use this posture as supportive therapy for the management of diabetes, menstrual disorders, prolapse, Kidney and lung disorders, sluggish liver, and colitis.

Pascimottanasana in Classic Yoga Texts

All medieval Yoga texts describes or mentions this posture.

Pascimottanasana in Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Stretch your legs forward like a stick, grasp your
toes with both of your hands and put the forehead on your
knees. This is called Posterior Stretch.

– Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.28

Verse 1.28 describes how to perform this pose and the next verse enumerates the benefits.

As a consequence of this the vital air starts to flow in the Sushumna
and the digestive fire of the stomach becomes more powerful. This practice makes you slimmer and your belly vanishes.

– Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.29

Paschimottanasana in Gheranda Samhita

This text just describes how to practice this posture. The text does not talk about the benefits.

Spread the legs on the ground as stiff as a stick and place the forehead on the knees. Catch the toes with your hands. This is called Posterior Stretch Pose.

– Gheranda Samhita 2.24

Pascimottanasana in Siva Samhita

As we have already seen, this text describes the pose with a little variation and calls it by name Stern-Pose.

Spread out the legs and keep them apart. Hold your head by your hands firmly and place them on the knees. This is called Stern Pose.

It activates the motion of vital air destroys dullness and uneasiness of the body. This pose is otherwise known as Pascimottanasana.

The Intelligent one who practice this noble posture daily, get mastery over the air certainly.

Siva Samhita 3.92

In the next verse, the text declares:

One who perform this posture get all the Psychic powers. Hence he who is desirous of attaining powers should practice this pose diligently.

– Siva Samhita 3.93

The next verse is also about this posture.

The practice details should be kept as a secret with utmost care and should not be given to every one. By this practice, one obtains the mastery of vital air which destroys all the miseries.

Siva Samhita 3.94

Paschimottanasana in Hatha Tattva Kaumudi

This Yoga text contains 56 chapters. The seventh chapter is dedicated to yoga postures that contains 60 verses. Three verses talk of this posture.

Stretch out both the legs on the floor. Hold the big toes by the respective hands. Place the forehead on the knees. This is Posterior Lock.

– Hatha Tattva Kaumudi 7.41

This Pascimattanasana causes the currents of vital energy to pass through the posterior path. It increases the gastric fire, reduces the belly and offers good health.

Hatha Tattva Kaumudi 7.42

The yogi who performs this practice stimulate the gastric fire. Then he brings up the fire of bile from stomach and establish it in his head. As a result, he is free from hunger, thirst, old age, and the like. In consequence of not having any morbidity, the belly gets reduced. This Posture drives out the morbidities from the body. This Posture brings good health by alleviating the disorders and defects. Hence, this Posture is the best one.

Hatha Tattva Kaumudi 7.43

Pascimottanasana in Yoga Sikha Upanishad

According to Yoga Sikha Upanishad, When the Yogi combines Jalandhara Bandha with Paschimottanasana, Prana will enter Brahma Nadi.

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Thirunavukkarasu Sivasubramaniam

He has got 40 years of experience in traditional yoga philosophy and practice. He is well versed in Classical Sanskrit and Classical Tamil texts. His other area of proficiency includes Tantra and South Indian Astrology.

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