Paschimottanasana/Seated Forward Bend Yoga Asana - Case Study of its Anatomy and Physiology

Yoga Involves More Than Just Touching Your Toes

It's About What You Discover Down Below

People today lead sedentary lives because they rarely engage in any physical activity. Because of this, individuals experience a great deal of stiffness and lack of flexibility in their bodies when they begin any activity. According to our Yogic Concept, life is not flexible when the spine is not flexible. When referring to life itself, flexibility connotes a rigid, lazy, stressed-out existence that leads nowhere. A flexible body and spine also creates a myriad of opportunities. We are able to expand these possibilities because to the linkages between yoga and daily life. These poses are also.   -Tanmay Bhati

Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend Yoga Asana or Intense Dorsal Stretch

According to legend, city life is filled with mental stress and physical rigidity, hence the Forward Bending pose aids in overcoming these strains. This is one of the four most significant asanas, according to the Shiva Samhita.

Snap from a Book by Leslie Kaminoff (edited in X-Ray view for better understanding)


Sanskrit, where Paschimo means "west" or "the back of the body," Uttana means "extended" or "intense stretch," or "stretch," and asana means "posture," is the source of the term "Paschim-ottan-asana."

Regarding a better understanding of yogic science, "strong mental awareness" and "breathing" are two wonderful aspects of yoga. The union of the body, mind, and soul is formed by the two items requiring bodily postures. And things became more evident as I investigated this more intellectually. I learned that each asana is distinctive. Shiva introduced and brought 8400000 asanas, however after filtering, we were only given 32 asanas out of the 84 lakhs. This demonstrates how these poses impart to them the power and importance of these 84 lakh poses. One such pose is this one, Pashimottanasana.  

"Curving Back Within Myself, I create Again and Again" - The Bhagavat Gita

Anatomy of Paschimottanasana - 

Gravity is a crucial factor in this asana. While the body escapes the restrictions of gravity when bending backwards, when bending forward, gravity supports the body. Since the entire back region of the body is extended in this seated forward bend, gravity's pulling power helps to stretch the targeted muscle area, which also relieves stress and pain. In other words, it stretches the entire back, from top to bottom. The most significant advantage of this pose is revealed in this claim, which is that it promotes height gain. This pose should be taught to kids so they can grow adequate height in addition to the numerous other advantages detailed in the following paragraphs. 

Again, the physiology of this asana is such that when we bend forward, the lungs compress, which causes exhalation to occur and also separates the vertebra. The neurons stimulated by this split vertebra promote circulation around the spine and support the spinal code. Along with the lungs, other vital internal organs including the kidneys, pancreas, and intestines also receive massages when the lungs are compressed. 

"This Asana allows our body to be like a fetus in the womb, like mother nourishes the baby for the growth and vitality, we bow to mother nature to take care of ourselves in the same manner.". - Tanmay Bhati

A constant network of muscle and fascia runs along the back of the human body. This pose stretches and massages the entire body, including the "plantar fascia" in the feet and the scalp fascia in the head.


It is stated that a skilled Paschimottanasana practitioner can hear "Anahat Naad."


You could physically feel that it's a little challenging to straighten the knees in one of the anatomical components of Paschimottanasana. When I first started practising, I was studying the same subject and encountered the same resistance. But I've also come to a judgement on the anatomical structure of the muscle there. Touch the soft lobe of muscle which is the hamstring muscles, which are located right behind your knee at the rear of your leg. The entire physiology now revolves on this. The hamstring muscle is sometimes referred to as a "multi-joint muscle" since it consists of essentially three different types of muscles that are joined together.

The semimembranosus and biceps femoris are two of these three groups, and the semitendinosus, a third long muscle, is located superficially to the semimembranosus. The hamstring muscles traverse the hip joint, attach to the back of the femur (large thigh bone), cross the knee, and then attach to both the tibia and fibula. They are attached to the ischial tuberosity, also known as the sit bone. Therefore, such binding makes straightening the knees a little difficult, especially when seated. Therefore, the next time you perform this asana or any other asana that requires straightening the knees, such as uttanasana or the steps of Suryanamaskar, keep in mind the anatomy of the human body so that you can carry it out carefully and safely. 

Anatomy of Seated Forward Bending Asana

Step-by-step approach - 

First, sit with your spine straight in Staff Pose, also known as Dandasana.

Second, take a big breath in and gently exhale as you bend forward while holding your thumb (or, if more comfortable, your thumb, index, and middle finger).

Third - With the same exhale, move closer to your knees and try to contact them as much as you can with the top of your head.

Fourth, while bending forward, draw your belly button.

Fifth, aim to gently touch your elbow to the ground as you take your final step.

Sixth, for novices, hold in this position for 5 to 10 seconds at first since you are not a regular practitioner and this much bending is initially beyond of your reach due to a stiff spine, as illustrated in the image.  However, if you do it consistently, you should see some improvement in your flexibility and range of motion within a week or so.

Seventh, take a deep breath in and descend to your last pose, Dandasana (Staff pose).

Eighth, exhale and unwind while remaining mindful of the changes taking place within you.

Awareness - 

Yoga asanas' most crucial component is awareness. Consciousness arises from awareness. The Swadhisthana (Sacral Chakra), which is connected to sensuality, passion, the emotional body, and creativity, is activated by Paschimottanasana. Your focus should therefore be focused on this Chakra. It is located around two inches in and two inches below the navel. When executing an asana, we can direct our mind on the parts that feel stretched. The basic goal is to detect subtle changes in the body that are occurring.

Breathing -

Start by inhaling, then gently exhale while bending forward. Exhale slowly and deeply while bringing the trunk closer to the knees with the aid of the arms. Inhale while standing still. As you assume the final position as illustrated in the image above, keep your breathing calm and steady. Finally, when you come out of this pose and resume your normal breathing, take a slow breath in.

Counter pose Asanas

The goal of the counter poses is to restore equilibrium to the body, particularly to the pelvis and spine, and to counteract the effects of a particular asana. Backwards-bending poses like setu bandhasana, matsyasana, bhujangasana, and chakrasana should be used as a counterbalance to the asana.


From the research point of view -

According to one study on Paschimottanasana, daily practice of this pose and Kapalbhati, together with dietary limitations, is more effective at lowering obesity. Dr Ravi Shukla and Sangeeta Gehlot from UP, India, conducted this study in which 60 subjects were interviewed and their anthropometric measurements, including weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, hip circumference, waist-hip ratio, body fat percentage, and visceral fat percentage, were recorded. 

All I need to say is to practise regularly and to the best of your ability. Do not exert all of your might at once. Increase your practice timing gradually. If you were to ask me how long I should hold that position, I would respond that it entirely depended on your level of practice. During my visit to a world record event in Jaipur, I saw a student or experienced yoga practitioner, maybe 8 or 9 years old, set a world record by remaining motionless in Paschimottanasana for around 1.5 hours. Our party was taken aback by his calmness and the fact that he barely moved the entire time. 

Many people have been able to practise asanas for much longer; it all depends on your commitment and dedication. The two most potent soldiers are patience and time, just as Leo Tolstoy said. You will discover your way out if you move forward patiently and persistently.

-   Tanmay Bhati

Other Articles From Yogacosmicscience:

14. The Anatomy of Sushumna Nadi.

15. Nuances of Yoga

16. Sattva Rajas Tamas.

17. Pranayama form Heart and Related Research.

18. Can I see the seven chakras physically and what are the associated frequencies with each chakra? 

19. Awareness is the key: how consciously we deal with yogic practices to increase awareness.

20. Physiology of a Child's Brain: The First Parenting Lesson is to Observe Them


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