After the fish pose comes the 5th posture in the Sivananda yoga asana class: a very powerful posture: Paschimotanasana (sanskrit: पश्चिमोत्तानासन). The name comes from the Sanskrit words paschima (पश्चिम, paścima) meaning “west” or “back” or “back of body”, and uttana (उत्तान, uttāna) meaning “intense stretch” or “straight” or “extended”, and asana (आसन) meaning “steady posture” or “seat”.
The Forward Bend looks, and is, simple – provided you relax into the position, rather than forcing yourself into it. The pose is one of the most powerful and important asanas, helping to ease the spinal compression caused by standing upright. Its practice contributes greatly toward keeping your back supple, your joints mobile, your nervous system invigorated, and your internal organs toned.
The benefits of this posture are numerous:
- Relieves problems with sciatica
- Invigorates the nervous system
- Good for reducing weight and obesity
- Stretches and lengthens the entire spine
- Stimulates your kidneys, liver and uterus
- Relieves digestive problems such as constipation
- Highly beneficial in cases of sinusitis and asthma
- Results in better digestion, increases your appetite
- Soothes anxiety, headache, and helps reduce fatigue
- Stretches your shoulders, spine and hamstring muscles
- Massages the internal organs, especially the digestive organs
- Relieves symptoms of dysmenorrheal menstruation and menopause
Energetic (Pranic) Benefits
- Balances the prana within the body
- Stimulates manipura chakra (solar plexus center)
- Improves concentration
- Relieves stress and tension by calming the mind
Get in to the posture
After the fish pose, you lie back in savasana and after a couple of deep abdominal breaths, you stretch your body by bringing your arms over the head and giving a good stretch to the entire body, then you come sitting up with your upper body straight and your legs straight on the floor in front of you, your arms are by your sides.
Inhale deeply, stretch your arms up and over your head and keep the inside of your upper arms close to your ears, stretch your spine up to the sky.
Exhale and slowly fold forward, keeping your spine, neck and arms straight, folding from the hips. When you can’t fold any deeper down, then release the arms and place them on your toes, feet, ankles, knees or thighs. Keep your legs straight, your knees down towards the floor and your toes pointing up to the sky.
Close your eyes and allow your body & mind to surrender to the posture. Use your breath to release your hip, hamstring and lower back muscles and go a little deeper in the posture. Don’t use your arms to pull yourself closer to the floor.
Inhale & straighten your back, exhale try to bring your belly button a little bit closer to your thighs. Your chest stays open, your shoulders and arms are relaxed.
Hold the posture for up to 1 minute, immobile.
Coming out of the posture:
Inhale and stretch forward and upward. Then lower our arms next to your body. Go directly to the counter posture, the inclined place (Purvotanasana).
Inclined plane – PURVOTANASANA
The Inclined Plane is the counter pose to the Sitting Forward Bend. It complements the forward stretch that your body is given in the previous pose, and increase the strength and flexibility of your arm. In this asana your hips are pushed upward, and your body is held straight and balanced on your hands and feet.
From the starting position, sitting with the hands flat on the floor behind the hips, with the fingers pointing back, let your head drop back. Next, inhale as you raise your hips and try to get your feet flat on the floor, keeping the legs straight.
Hold the pose for about 10 seconds or 5 deep breaths. Lower your body, then relax your hands by shaking your wrists.
Continue to lie on your belly, your big toes are touching, heels fall open to the side, make a pillow with your hands and place one cheek on your hand. Relax in this posture to prepare for the cobra pose (Bhujangasana).