Etymology and origins
The name comes from the Sanskrit words paschima (पश्चिम, paścima) meaning "west" or "the back of the body"; uttana (उत्तान, uttāna) meaning "intense stretch" or "straight" or "extended"; and asana (आसन, āsana) meaning "posture" or "seat".
The pose is described in the 15th-century Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter 1, verses 30-31.
This asana is practiced in four stages:
- In the first stage, the yogi stretches their legs straight and swings the upper part of their body back and forth. With each swing, the yogi tries to reach further with their hands, touching their knees, calves, ankles, and finally their toes.
- In the second stage, the yogi bends forward to touch their knees with their hands.
- From the second stage above, the yogi reaches further to touch their toes with their hands.
- From the third stage, the yogi tries to place their elbows at the side of their knees, and touch their knees with either their nose or their forehead.
People who have difficulty bending their backs should exercise caution when performing this asana.
A similar forward bend is the standing pose Uttanasana. Paschimottanasana enables easier rotation inward or outward of the legs, abducting or adducting them at the hip, flexing or extending the knees, or enacting plantar or dorsiflexion of the ankle. These variations can be performed either as a combined stretch, to change emphasis on different tissues, or simply to take the mind off the hamstrings and lower back stretch. They can be used rhythmically to aid in relaxation.
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Paschimottanasana [...] translated as "intense dorsal stretch", is a seated asana.
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