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Seated Forward Bend (paschimottanasana)

Seated forward bend that stretches your spine and the back of your legs.
 

Seated Forward Bend (or paschimottanasana) provides an intense stretch to the back of your body, especially to your spine and the back of your legs. This pose can help rejuvenate your body when you are tired or ill.
 
When you first start practicing Seated Forward Bend, you may not be able to bend very far forward due to tightness in your hamstrings. Make sure you do not force your upper body forward. Instead, try sitting on the edge of a thickly folded blanket, which can relieve tension in the back of your legs. Sitting on a blanket also supports your pelvis and helps keep your spine straight and lengthened.
 
As you bend forward, you should focus on lowering your abdomen and your chest, rather than your forehead. Keep in mind that lengthening your spine is more important than trying to bend forward as far as possible. Try to release your body further into the pose with each exhalation.
 
Avoid performing this pose if you have lower back problems or slipped discs in your back.
 
Steps:
Begin in Staff Pose.
(Your feet should be flexed, with your toes pointing toward the ceiling.)
Inhale as you raise your arms above your head and lengthen your spine. Your palms should be shoulder width apart and facing each other.
(Your shoulders should be relaxed.)
Exhale as you bend forward from your hips and stretch your hands toward your feet. Then clasp the sides of your legs or feet.
Drop your pelvis forward and down to further lengthen your spine, keeping your neck and shoulders relaxed.
(Keep your head, neck and spine in a straight line.)
Press forward through your heels and the crown of your head as you press back through your sitting bones.
Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds. Then return to Staff Pose.
(After performing Seated Forward Bend, perform Inclined Plane Pose as a counter pose.)
 
Modification:
Perform Seated Forward Bend sitting on the edge of a thickly folded blanket. Sitting on a blanket relieves tension in the back of your legs, supports your pelvis and helps keep your spine straight and lengthened while you are in the pose.
 
My legs feel tight while performing Seated Forward Bend. What should I do?
If you experience tension or discomfort in the back of your legs while in the pose, keep your legs slightly bent to reduce the tension. When your knees are bent, you can support your upper body by placing your palms on the floor on either side of your legs. As you gain flexibility, straighten your legs a little more each time you perform the pose.
 
Is there another way to release further into the pose?
Before holding the pose, raise and lower your upper body two or three times, stretching a little further forward each time you bend forward. This movement is especially useful for beginners.
 
I cannot bend very far forward in this pose. What can I do?
If you cannot bend very far forward, you may want to use a bolster to support your upper body. This allows you to focus more on relaxing your upper body forward.
 
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