Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you had a good time with friends, family, pets or away from all of that! 😉
Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) is one of my favorite poses to demonstrate in class because it shows that different bodies do poses in different ways (without any value judgement or ability level assigned.) Because of the shape of my body, I need to do it differently than it is usually taught. And that’s totally fine/awesome. The benefits and stretch are basically the same, and a pose that would be, if not impossible, extremely uncomfortable, is accessible.
Traditionally, paschimottanasana is taught with the legs together. However, as I love pointing out when I’m teaching, my legs simply will not do this when I’m seated with them extended because my thighs are significantly wider than my calves. Therefore, when I do paschimottanasana, I always sit with my legs extended and separated by about 18 inches. The separation you need will depend on your structure, but I find almost all students can find a comfortable seat in this pose.
Notice that I’m not on a mat – mats are awesome, but I don’t really need one for forward bends and I just woke up and felt inspired to do some yoga. No need to add barriers to your practice where there don’t need to be any.
Find your seat – make sure you can feel both sits-bones grounding into the floor. Extend your legs out in front of you. If having your legs straight is uncomfortable, you can grab a blanket or a pillow and place it under your knees. You might also find that sitting on a blanket or cushion is helpful here as well. I went for the minimalist approach. Flex your feet strongly and press your thighs and calves into the floor.
Before we go any further, we should take a moment to talk about my old friend hyperextension. If you press your thighs into the floor and your heels come up off the ground, congratulations, you are a hyperextender! In order to keep yourself from hyperextending, you can keep a microbend in your knee or press your calves more strongly into the floor.
Reach up – find length in both sides of your torso…
And then hinge at the hips – keeping your back as straight as possible – fold forward as far as you feel like it (without hunching your back) and then let your hands fall where they may. I reach my feet, but if you don’t then ankles, knees or thighs are great as well.
Clearly I needed to go back to sleep! You can relax your head at this point or close your eyes. Try to keep your shoulders away from your ears and keep pressing your legs into the floor strongly. Hold for 8 breaths and then come back up.