What is Paschimottanasana?

Paschimottanasana also known as intense dorsal stretch or seated forward bend is a classic pose from Hatha yoga. Paschimottanasana is a Sanskrit name which means “west stretching pose” – west suggesting the backside of the body, right from the head to the toe. Paschimottanasana involves intense stretching of the entire back – including the spine and the back muscles.  This yoga asana improves the functioning of the pancreas and digestive organs by activating the Manipura. It is also called as a destroyer of sickness as Paschimottanasana balances the emotional state of mind.

How to do it?

Although it is always better to perform yoga asanas in front of a yoga expert, especially if you are a beginner, the below steps will help you in better understanding and performance.

Step 1: Sit upright, keeping the spine in an erect position, with both the legs stretched out straight in front of you and toes flexed towards you.

Step 2: Now stretch both the arms above your head. Breathe in while you do so.

Step 3: Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints. Keep your spine straight rather than rounding your back.

Step 4: Place your hands on your legs, and stretch as much as your back and hamstrings allow you. If you are comfortable, touch your feet and keep them flexed with the knees and toes pointing towards the ceiling.

Step 5: Slightly lift your head and lengthen your spine. Breathe in while you do so. While you breathe out, try to gently move your naval towards your knees.

Step 6: Hold in this form for up to 2-3 minutes, or for less if you are a beginner. Repeat this movement for 4-5 times. To come out of the asana, release your feet carefully and slowly come back to sitting position.

Beginner tips

  • If you are a beginner or if you have low back pain, keep a rolled blanket beneath your knees for sitting (to keep your knees bent).
  • Feel the stretch, if there is a strain stop.
  • Observe your breath and concentrate where you feel the stretch.
  •  Find a yoga trainer for an error free posture.

Benefits of Paschimottanasana:

  1. Benefits of Paschimottanasana for Diabetes:

Paschimottanasana is known to reduce bodily stress. As mentioned in a study, Paschimottanasana stimulates pancreas along with other abdominal organs. Pancreas secrete insulin which regulates the blood glucose levels in the body and thus help in maintaining blood glucose levels. It also helps to keep the mind calm and reduce anxiety which in turn balances the blood sugar levels.

  1. Benefits of Paschimottanasana to reduce belly fat:

It is said that Paschimottanasana is a yoga asana that helps to reduce belly fat. A study stated that obese individuals who practiced Paschimottanasana daily, along with few other exercises and a balanced diet achieved fat reduction. The study also stated that regular practice of Paschimottanasana can help in maintaining healthy body weight and reduce the risk of obesity.

  1. Other benefits of Paschimottanasana:

Paschimottanasana is an asana which involves extension of the abdominal muscles. Thus it may not only help in making the abdominal muscles strong, but also reduce the chance of developing sciatica and reduce the pain in people who are suffering from sciatica.  As per a study,  Paschimottanasana may help to calm the mind and reduce the chances of stress and anxiety. This seated forward yoga asana plays a very important role in preventing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), also commonly known as acid reflux. Paschimottanasana also helps to prevent and relieve constipation and indigestions – by improving the process of digestion.

Precautions before performing Paschimottanasana:

  • Though Paschimottanasana offers a bunch of health benefits, it is important to know about the precautions and contraindications before you start practicing Paschimottanasana.
  • If you feel any pain or stiffness in your hamstrings, abdomen or any other muscle while performing Paschimottanasana, please slowly get back to the original position and avoid this asana.
  • People with back disk related issues like Sciatica, osteoarthritis, back pain, etc. should avoid practicing Paschimottanasana, as it exerts pressure on the back muscles.
  • People having arm, hip, ankle or shoulder injury should avoid this asana.
  • For women practicing yoga, while performing Paschimottanasana during menses place a pillow under your belly. But beware that this asana can cause stomach cramps. Pregnant women should avoid this asana.
  • As like other yoga asanas, do not perform this asana on a full stomach or if you are unwell.


Paschimottanasana  is a great asana for people who have a sedentary lifestyle and desk jobs and who regularly suffer from back and shoulder stiffness and pain. Yoga asanas like Paschimottanasana helps to improve overall health by combining physical movements, controlled breathing and mindfulness. Along with improving strength, balance and flexibility it also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. But to truly enjoy all the healthy benefits of Paschimottanasana without any complications, it is recommended that Paschimottanasana or any other yoga asana should be practiced under the supervision of a trained yoga instructor.