Pascimottanasana: the West Back Stretching
Pascimottanasana means “west intense stretch”. Pascha means west, refering to the back of the body because of the traditional practice of facing the rising sun; uttana means intense stretch, the action present in the back of the whole body in this asana.
Notably, it’s one of the most traditional and important poses, present in all yoga lineages. Essential and basic, Pascimottanasana is, in fact, promoting the health of key points in our body.
Even though it’s easy to do, let’s start exploring this asana step-by-step and clarify all its benefits. Keep reading!
Pascimottanasana is part of the group of symmetrical forward-bending poses. The backline of the body is a continuous network of muscle and fascia that extends from the soles of the feet to the scalp fascia.
Usually in the ending sequences, in some traditions, like Ashtanga, it can appear in other moments of the practice.
Let’s review it step-by-step:
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched in a line in front of you.
- Inhale and raise your arms up as you stretch the spine.
- Exhale, extend the hands forward and catch the toes.
- Inhale and extend the spine looking forward and trying to keep the back concave. Bend from the pelvic region while you take deep breaths.
- Exhale, bend forward without putting tension on the shoulders.
- If possible, bend and widen the elbows, pull the trunk forward and touch the forehead to the knees.
- Inhale, raise the head and look forward.
Cautions and alternatives
In case there is a lot of tightness in the back, elevate the seat with blankets or other support, under the sitz bones. The hight will be different for every person, adapt to your body. Otherwise, by pulling the body forward, the flexors and abdominal muscles will contract. It’s preferable to use the action of gravity.
Bending the knees can also be useful, in cases the tightness is severe. For people with lower back problems, instead of catching the toes, start by resting the hands on the legs or ankles, and never pull. The legs should not rotate, neither internally, nor externally.
Effects and benefits
No asana is made for no reason! Any yoga pose has a purpose, results, and effects. If done consciously and with respect for each’s conditions, these results are benefits, some of it physical, some of it mental.
In Pascimottanasana, these are the benefits:
- Tones the abdominal organs.
- Keeps the abdominal organs free from sluggishness.
- Rejuvenates the whole spine.
- Improves digestion.
- Massages the heart, protecting from heart diseases.
- Stretches the pelvic area, originating the blood brought here and improving vitality.
- Can be part of infertility treatments.
- Refreshes the mind.
- Improves the sensations of relaxation.
- Promotes the ability to stay with yourself and look within.
Would you ever think that sitting on the floor and bending forward could be so important for our health? Probably not, but a healthy lifestyle is most of the times way easier than what we could imagine.
These are some of the reasons why Pascimottanasana is so considered by all yogis. Practice and enjoy it!
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