Seated Forward Bend  -Paschimottanasana

Step by step

  • From Dandasana, gently press your sitting bones into the floor (or your prop) and draw your lower belly in and up. 
  • Lengthen your spine as you inhale.
  • Fold forward hinging from the hips as you exhale. Do not fold deeper than you can with a straight back.
  • Keep length in the front of the body, 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

  • Sit up on props, bend your knees and use a strap to start with. You want to be able to tilt your pelvis forward and keep length in your spine.
  • Engage your thigh muscles and slightly rotate your thighs inwards to spread your sitting bones, giving yourself more room to fold forward.
  • If you have particularly tight hamstrings you can bend your knees as much as you need to.

Benefits

  • Stretches the back body - spine, hamstrings, calves.
  • Calms the mind, prepares you for meditation.
  • Stimulates internal organs.

Watch out for

  • Be mindful not to overstretch your hamstrings.
  • Avoid this pose if you have lower back injuries.
  • Keep your neck in line with the spine.

Variations

  • You have the option to hold the outer edges of your feet in this pose, or to bind around your feet by taking hold of your wrist with the other hand.
  • 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 make a difference to your practice in Tension versus compression in yoga.