Paschimottanasana is a seated forward bend with the upper body folded forward over the legs. It is one of the 12 basic postures of Hatha yoga and is also part of the Ashtanga primary series.
Paschimottanasana is considered to be a calming posture for the mind and nervous system. It may be therapeutic for anxiety and depression. Because it can be relatively challenging, especially for beginners, it is a good posture for teaching surrender and patience. For those with tight hamstrings, it is only over time and with practice that the body can release and open up into the full forward fold.
Paschimottanasana is also known as seated forward bend in English.
The term, paschimottanasana, is derived from the Sanskrit root words paschima, which means “back” or “west;” uttana, which means “intense stretch” or “straight,” referring in this case to the back of the body; and asana, which means “posture.”
The asana naturally promotes introspection and inner work. Due to the challenging nature of the stretch, it may be necessary to let go of the desire to fold fully over the legs and, instead, surrender to the posture as it is. This can teach students to balance effort and surrender in postures as well as detachment from the end result of their work.
It is mentioned in the “Shiva Samhita” as one of the accomplished asanas, along with padmasana, siddhasana and vajrasana. Gorakshanath, an 11th century yogi, advocated this asana.
Paschimottanasana is also said to balance prana in the body. It is particularly stimulating for the manipura chakra, which improves vitality.