Its name comes from the Sanskrit word paschima, which means “west” or “back”, and uttana which means “intense stretch” or “ascending”. Thus, it is known in English as the pose of posterior stretching. You might also find it translated into the seated forward bend.
Paschimottanasana is one of my favorite asanas. It works hard on Muladhara , Swadhisthana and Manipura and it is a great asana to surrender* to the universe. The benefits of this asana are innumerable, both physical and mental, emotional and energetic-spiritual.
Paschimottanasana promotes proper blood circulation throughout the body and helps fight a number of ailments, such as constipation, diabetes, urinary tract infections, prostate problems, impotence, arthritis, depression, anxiety, stress, irritability, fear… Excellent also to remove fat around the waist and stomach and to strengthen the immune system. Moreover, it works with the flexibility and elasticity of the spine, which provides youth and vitality.
Paschimottanasana charges our batteries. Awesome asana for people who feel deprived of vital energy, while being one of the best asanas for those wishing to enter a state of complete relaxation and total surrender.
Verse 1:28 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, possibly the oldest existing text on Hatha Yoga, written in the 15th century by Swami Swatmarama, disciple of Swami Gorakhnath explains:
“Stretching the legs (in front) on the ground, like a stick; bending forward, holding the toes with both hands and placing the forehead on the knees is called paschimottanasana.”
Verse 1:29 continues:
“Paschimottanasana is the best among asanas. By this asana the pranic currents rise through sushumna, the digestive fire increases, and the abdomen becomes flat, and the practitioner becomes free from diseases.”
Another classic hatha yoga text, Gheranda Samhita, written 300 years ago, documents the teachings of the wise Gheranda to his student Chanda. In verse 2:24, he explains:
“Stretch both legs straight on the ground, stiff as a stick (the heels not touching), place the forehead on both knees, and carefully take the toes with the hands. This is paschimottanasana.”
• Surrender – Surrender does not mean to give up, to submit yourself as the slave does to his master, or to give up goals. This surrendering is not relinquishing power to another, but rather, uniting with the Whole, letting your life take its course, knowing that there is a reason behind anything that is happening. When I practice paschimottanasana, I feel a powerful energy, I feel that universal union, unconditional happiness at all levels…
Surrender is also being open to all possibilities, without expectations or attachments, getting rid of conventions, feelings, and ideas that pull you down, and instead choosing to be free. Surrender is fighting for what you want, but being unattached to the outcome, knowing that your attitude towards the outcome matters much more than the result itself.