There are few exercises that can do wonders for your back’s flexibility and strength like the Paschimottanasana. Also known as the Seated Forward Bend or the Intense Dorsal Stretch is an asana. Together with Padmasana (lotus), Siddhasana (half-lotus) and Vajrasana (lightning-bolt pose), this asana is an accomplished asana according to the Shiva Samhita.

Since this requires extra stretching of the back and neck muscles, people who have difficulty bending their backs or those recovering from a back injury should exercise great caution when performing this asana. Check with a certified physio about doing the Paschimottanasana. Those who have recovered from a stomach injury or surgery should also take precautions before practicing this pose

Sit on your mat, with your legs extended in front of you, heels slightly flexed and bellybutton pulled to the spine for support. Inhale and sit tall and raise your arms in the air. Exhale and lean forward and reach for your toes. Allow your arms to rest on your thighs, shins or at your ankles. Allow your head to drop and gaze past the end of your nose. Allow your upper body to relax.

The head position in the final pose (Image: Paula Lay Yoga)
The head position in the final pose (Image: Paula Lay Yoga)

If you can straighten the legs, flex the feet, and engage the quadriceps (by lifting your kneecap) to keep your knees from locking. With every inhale, feel your spine growing longer (imagine the crown of your head reaching out in front of you to the wall); with every exhale, allow the body to sink lower.

If you can’t reach your toes use a band or a towel to wrap around your feet, which you can then hold.

In its perfect form, Paschimottanasana smoothly presses and stimulates intestines and your gall bladder to help alleviate any gastro-related issues. Even your spinal nerves are pulled and stretched out during the time of this asana, which will provide relief from crippling pain issues or neck-cricks and such.

It’s known to increase the fertility factor in male practitioners, and stomach pain, headache, piles, hip pain, back pain and body weakness are said to be cured by doing this asana.

Main image: PrettyMomGuide

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