Paschima = West.
Uttana = Intense.
Asana = Steady Pose or Posture.
In English this posture translates to mean “Intense back stretch or Back Stretching Pose”.
Paschimottanasana is also known as Intense Stretch of the West Pose, the West refers to the back side of the body.
This posture allows the whole body to relax and release tension.
When the posture is held the connective tissues and the fascia are able to release any deep held tension around the lower back, hips and also the backs of the legs. If you are able to soften the shoulders and allow your head to hang you will find that you release tension across the tops of the shoulders and from the back of the neck as well.
How to Perform Paschimottanasana
The instructions below are for a long held Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend).
Begin sitting with a straight spine in Dandasana, extend your legs straight ahead of you with a small space between your feet, so that if you were standing your feet would be under your hips (this variation can be kinder on the body, advanced practitioners might like to join the insides of the legs and feet). Direct your toes up so that you reach out through your heels.
Breathe in and extend your spine, on your exhalation slowly allow the upper body to move forwards hinging from the hips. Once you have moved forwards as far as is comfortable whilst maintaining a straight spine, relax your chin onto your chest, allow your shoulders to roll forwards and release away from your ears. Allow the weight of your upper body to carry you into the posture.
If you are experiencing pulling in the backs of the legs bend your knees a little.
Breathe slowly and remain in this position for up to three minutes to help release any deep-set tension.