Seated Forward Bend  -Paschimottanasana

Step by step

  • From Dandasana, sit with your legs outstretched in front of you and your feet flexed. If you cannot sit with a straight back, sit on a block or folded blanket. 
  • On an inhalation lengthen your spine, gently press your sitting bones into the floor (or block) and backwards. Slightly arch your lower back forward towards your belly. Place your hands either side of your hips on the floor. Press into your hands to help elongate your spine.
  • Pull up your thighs and then let the top of your thighs lower to the floor.
  • Keep the front of the body open and long. On an exhalation gently begin to fold forward hinging from the hips, not bending from the back.
  • Keep length from the pubic bone until the breastbone, moving from your belly, through your ribcage, chest, and then your forehead towards your legs.
  • Let your arms slide down along the floor. If your hands reach your feet, wrap your first two fingers and thumbs around your big toes. Bend your elbows, keep them lifting away from the floor out to the sides and keep your shoulders away from the ears. If you can’t hold your feet, loop a strap around the soles of the feet, hold the strap with both hands and keep your arms straight.
  • To go deeper into the pose, with every in-breath keep lengthening through the front of your torso, lifting your head slightly. With each out-breath see if you can fold deeper into the pose, maintaining a long spine whilst hinging from the hips. Keep your neck in line with your spine. If you hold a strap, walk your hands slowly down the strap as you go deeper. Keep your arms straight.

Beginners' tips

  • If you use the strap, remember to keep length in the spine. Don’t round through your back. The priority is not to get your head down to your knees or to touch your feet.
  • Bring your awareness to your inner thigh muscles, engaging them in order to internally rotate your thighs, creating more space through your sitting bones, giving you more room to fold forward.
  • If you have particularly tight hamstrings, bend your knees.

Benefits

  • Stretches the spine, hamstrings, shoulders
  • Calms the mind, prepares you for meditation
  • Stimulates internal organs

Watch out for

  • If you have hamstring injuries or lower back pain, be mindful not to overstretch in this pose - start with your knees bent
  • For any spinal injuries this may not be the pose for you. Check with your health professional especially first
  • Keep your neck in line with the spine so as not to strain your neck

Variations

  • You have the option to hold the outer edges of your feet in this pose, or to wrap your wrists around your feet if you are able to go deeper
  • Bringing the feet hips’ distance or wider allows for more room in the pelvis when folding forwards. This can be more comfortable if you have a rounder belly and/or if you experience compression in forward fold poses as a result of your bone structure.
  • Read more about how your bone structure can affect your practice in Tension versus compression in yoga.