Step 1: Sit in Dandasana – pull the cheeks of your hips apart with the respective hands, keep your spine neutral and your legs stretched out, heels sliding out and your toes rolled in.
Step 2: Inhale and raise your arms up; hip bones are grounded to the floor, spine elongated and arms slightly pushed back. Raise your head up and look at the ceiling. Slightly push the upper part (holding the stretch intact) of your body to the back. This will engage your core muscles a little more. Maintain as much lift as possible of the upper body. Exhale and while looking up at the ceiling, start bending forward slowly. Make sure you start your bending process by jutting your hips out on the floor and not from the mid back. Your hips may not show any distinct movement but mentally your source of stretch has to be the “hips.”
Step 3: You have begun to bend forward now; one step at a time by pushing the back of the legs down to the floor with your quadriceps, thereby, lengthening your hamstrings. The back of the knees and calves firmly on the floor, heels sliding out and toes flexed in.
Step 4: Half way through your bend, pause , take a breath ,hold your right big toe with your right index and middle fingers and the left big toe with the left index and middle fingers; pull the big toes towards you so that the back of the legs are fully stretched on the floor specially the back of the knees. Lengthen your spine further. This will get your back in a concave position; begin to slowly and yet firmly bend your elbows; elbows pointing away from the body as well as the floor.
Step 5: Exhale and focus on your abdomen, suck your abdomen in, to push upper part of the body further out and try to rest your abdomen on your thighs.
Step 6: Next, rest your chest on the knees; remember you are still looking slightly up; it is only at the end that your head comes down on the shin (looking up constantly maintains the length of the spine whereas looking down reduces the range of movement).
Step 7: Hold the posture for 30 seconds with normal or deep breathing. Once you progress into your practice, increase the holding time to 3 to 5 minutes.
Step 8: Release the posture slowly in the reverse order by raising your head and creating concave back, straightening your arms and then slowly moving back to Dandasana.
Role of toes in this posture: Keeping your toes relaxed fails to recruit the back of the legs and allow the legs to fall apart. Stretching or swinging the toes away from the body will rotate the thighs laterally whereas flexing the toes in will rotate the thighs medially. So be attentive about flexing your toes in.
- Hamstrings : Paschimottanasana stretches your hamstrings. This stretch can be manipulated, even in case of very tight hamstrings, by adjusting the range of forward bending as per your capacity. Make sure to press your hamstrings constantly on the floor in the process of bending forward.
- Calves, Plantar Fascia and Achilles tendon: Pressing your hamstrings, sliding your heels away from the body and flexing your toes towards the body engage your calf muscles and releases the tension from that area. In fact, this also works in relieving pain caused due to plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
- Spine: The spine and the vertebral column feel an amazing stretch. This lengthening also works on releasing tension and stiffness from the lower back.
- Abs Muscles works on diabetes: There is extensively core engagement in this posture which, in turn, massages internal organs like the spleen, stomach, and intestines etc, due to which there is an extra flow of blood to the abdominal nerves and muscles. Hence, the asana is also recommended for people who suffer from diabetes as the placing of the abdomen on the thigh massages the kidneys and helps move the stagnated blood from that area, thereby, allowing the flow of oxygenated blood.
- Arms: Stretching out the arms releases the tension from the arms. Stretching the arms at the back works in case of tight / frozen shoulders whereas stretching forward works on the sides of the body. In this posture, when we hold our toes with the fingers and bend our elbows out, it also works on strengthening the shoulders.
- Calms you down: Forward bending has a calming effect when performed effortlessly. It calms your brain nerves and reduces tension both from the mind as well as the body. Recommended for high BP, stress, tension, headache.
- Avoid in case of back pain