Paschimottanasana is a forward bend that stretches the muscles of the lower spine, pelvis, legs and upper back. On a more subtle level, this posture stimulates circulation to the organs of the pelvis and abdomen and is particularly soothing for the mind. Supporting pachimottanasana with bolsters allows the body to passively hold the posture and gently receive its benefits.
If you have a back or hamstring injury please consult the advice of an experienced teacher before practicing this posture on your own. Do not practice if you have stomach or asthma issues or are pregnant.
How to do it
Sit on the floor with extended legs; gently flex both feet. Tilt your pelvis forward to extend the spine. If your pelvis does not tilt forward naturally or easily, try placing a blanket or two beneath your seat.
Once seated, place a round bolster lengthwise on your legs with one side meeting the hip points. For more height, place a pranayama bolster on top of the round bolster so that when you fold at the hips the round bolster supports the abdomen and the pranayama supports your head.
Place one cheek or your forehead to the pranayama. If you place your cheek, be sure to switch sides mid-way through practice. Ensure your thighs remain on the floor.
Encourage your back to gently round, your legs to release and your breath to deepen.
Before practicing paschimottanasana, gently warm-up the back, pelvis and legs with postures such as cat/cow; child’s pose or knees to chest; standing forward bend; and downward facing dog.
Close your eyes. Breathe smooth, steady breath in and out of the nose. If you have one cheek to the mat, be sure to switch sides halfway though.
Take a gentle reclined twist such as jathara parivatanasana to counterbalance the spine after paschimottanasana.
Jillian is a yogini based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She leads weekly public yoga classes for adults and specializes in yoga for kids and families. Her studies have led her to complete trainings at YogaWorks, Karma Kids and Yoga Playgrounds. Jillian feels blessed to practice and teach yoga and is particularly passionate about empowering her students with tools to navigate the modern world with ease.