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Paschimottanasana
Seat Borward Bend Pose


As yogis, we have learned that a disciplined practice yields positive results. We've also learned that we can usually produce specific results by doing certain poses or practicing a particular method. Some asanas will help an aching back, others relieve depression; one method builds strength, another is meditative; and so on. Since such benefits are both real and often predictable, you can be lulled into believing that the results are guaranteed, that you can "take" poses like a pill. Such a simplistic approach trivializes yoga and inevitably leads to disappointment and confusion, partly because it disregards the influence of individual variables like constitution and personality, but especially because it disregards the continuous fluctuations of each human mind.

Demonstrations:
OneHip Opener 1:
Janu Sirsasana Variation

Stretch your left leg forward and bend the right, planting the sole of the foot against the inside of the left thigh. Roll onto the outside of your left leg, raising the right hip and leg off the floor. Put your hands on the floor to the outside of your left leg with the right hand ahead of the left. Let your lower abdomen slide toward the left hip joint, softening resistance in your hip and rolling the abdomen further with each exhalation. Stay as long as you are progressing, then repeat on the other side.
TwoHip Opener 2:
Leg-over-Arm Pose

Sit erect, with both legs stretched out in front of you. Raise your right leg, bend the knee, and reach your right arm on the inside of the leg to hold your calf. Next, grasp your right foot with your left hand, exhaling and relaxing your spine as you raise the leg higher. Work your upper right arm under your knee as close to the shoulder as possible and place that hand on the floor. Press your right arm into the right leg while simultaneously relaxing your hips and lower back. Continue to relax into this pose for a minute or two before repeating on the other side.
ThreeEasing Forward
Sit erect, with both legs stretched out in front of you and lean forward by rotating your pelvis over your legs. Hold your outer feet with your hands without rounding your back. If this isn't possible, place a folded blanket under your tailbone and slightly bend your knees. If your back still rounds excessively, hold a strap looped around your feet. Relax your upper thighs, lifting and extending your torso away from your pelvis. Hold the pose and try to relax until the pose feels comfortable and easy.
FourBolstering Your Practice
From the previous position, deepen your forward bend. Move from your hips, keeping your head at shoulder level in line with your spine. Relax and breathe steadily to melt your pelvis over your leg bones nestling your abdomen into your inner thighs. A blanket roll under you head (or a bolster under your torso, if you're less flexible) can help you release. To free your upper back, cup your hands behind your head, pressing your head up and spreading your elbows. After a few breaths, release elbows, chest, and head back toward the floor, grasp your feet again, and continue to settle into the pose.
FivePaschimottanasana
As your pose deepens (perhaps over years), remove your props and rest your abdomen, chest, and head on your legs. Continue to grip your feet while softening your upper thighs and releasing tension from your hip and back muscles. When you feel completely at ease, relax your arms onto the floor. Maintaining a steady focus on your breathing and making as little muscular effort as possible, hold the pose as long as you wish.
Paschimottanasana
Seat Borward Bend Pose

» Demonstrations

» Different Strokes

» Prepare the Ground

» A Delicate Balance

» Bolstering Your Practice

Benefits
• Tones abdominal organs and kidneys
• Stretches legs and spine
• Calms the nerves
• Quiets the mind

Contraindications
• Lumber disc injuries
• Sacrolliac strain
• Acute depression
• If pregnant, position legs wider apart

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© 2001 Barbara Benagh
Reprinted from Yoga Journal