POSE: Seated Forward Bend
SANSKRIT NAME: Paschimottanasana
BENEFITS: Improves flexibility of the hamstrings and the spine, massages internal organs, alleviates menstrual cramps, gas and bloating, calms an anxious mind.
HOW TO: With legs stretched out in front of you and feet flexed, first sit up nice and tall, reaching through the entire spine. Draw the lower belly in as you tilt the pelvis forward to create length in the back legs. Slowly walk your hands forward, keeping your back flat as you fold over your legs and reach for the feet with your hands. Do not compromise the straightness of your spine in order to come closer to your legs. Doing so may strain the lower back, which can be very sensitive. As long as you continue to practice, the flexibility will come.
Practice this pose for ten breaths or longer if part of a yin or restorative practice.
Contraindications: Herniated spinal discs or other back injury, diarrhea.
MODIFICATION: Seated forward bend with folded blanket under hips.
BENEFITS: Adding a blanket here elevates the hips, tilting the pelvis forward, which will help create length in the backs of the legs and allow you to go deeper into the posture. Feel free to add extra blankets to create a slightly higher rise if needed.
MODIFICATION: Seated forward bend with blanket rolled under knees.
BENEFITS: Adding a rolled blanket lessens the intensity of the hamstring stretch and may allow you to go deeper into the posture.
MODIFICATION: Seated forward bend with yoga strap (or a scarf or belt).
BENEFITS: If you are unable to reach your feet with your hands, utilizing a strap will help you to maintain alignment and deepen your forward fold practice.
HOW TO: See above. Keeping the arms straight, refrain from pulling yourself further forward than your body is ready to go. If you notice you've started to hold your breath or clench your jaw, those can be signs you've gone too far.
Feel free to combine any of these modifications to achieve your ideal stretch.