Paschimottanasana is a Sanskrit word which means Stretch of the West, (Paschima means "west" in Sanskrit, and the yogis were literally stretching the west side of the body as they bent toward the sun while performing ancient rituals, "Uttana" means intense stretch). It is the fifth of the 12 basic postures of hatha yoga. There are many benefits of this posture; the main and most obvious one is to provide a complete stretch of the entire backside of the body from the back of the head through the heels. This forward bend stretch posture helps a distracted mind unwind, and provide grounding. According to yogis, Paschimottanasana is achieved slowly with great patience.
This asana helps stimulate the nerves and stretches muscles along the spine. It also stretches the hamstrings on the back of the legs and helps increases flexibility at the hips. The abdominal and pelvic areas receive a wonderful massage and stimulate manipura chakra (solar plexus center).
Traditional texts on yoga claim that Paschimottanasana helps in many ways:
Increases appetite, reduces obesity, constipation, back pain, reduction of fat around the waist area, high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, sinusitis, encourages relaxation, calms anxiety and teaches us to work with the breath; the soft exhaling breath should be used to ease gently into the pose.This posture calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression. Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort.
People avoid Paschimottanasana:
As we are tend to sit on soft, comfortable furniture, this deceptively easy-looking asana can take a long time to perfect. The muscles of the hips and backs of the legs are very powerful and can take awhile to loosen before one can come fully into this pose. However, you can get the proper benefits of the posture by holding as still as possible at whatever stage you are at, with the understanding that with regular practice over time you will be able to make significant progress in this asana. Do not bounce body in this posture. Perform it slowly and steadily. In one rhythm keep the alignment of the body as well as the spine in a straight line. If you are suffering with slipped disc or sciatica, asthma, diarrhea then you should not perform this asana. Be careful if you have lower back problems, remembering to sit on a folded blanket and bend the knees slightly if you need to.
Consult Ayurveda doctor or yoga instructor before practicing.
• Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and feet together.
• Inhale; bring your arms up, fingers pointing to the sky.
• On an exhalation slowly bend forward from the hips and bring the hands onto your legs, allowing them to slide down towards your feet. If you can, grasp your feet or toes.
• Try and maintain the straightness of your spine and look forward. Breathe evenly and with awareness, direct the breathing to the spine.
• Reverse the above sequence and carefully return to the starting position.