paschimottana = intense stretch of the west (pashima = west; uttana = intense stretch)
asana = pose
Loving the hamstrings is a good way to go, especially if you are very active. They can pinch, pull and strain so easily, so it’s good to take care of them. Give them lots of time to release.
This pose is best done with a warm body to really get a deep stretch in those hammies without the chance of straining them. And, as always, listen to your body so you can go just far enough to feel a good stretch but not too far to overdo it. As you relax into this pose, the legs will open up and you’ll be able to go deeper. Just don’t force it. It will come on its own.
Getting into the Pose
From a seated position, find balance in the hips first, maybe untuck flesh from the seat to get comfortable and grounded. Legs are stretched out in front. Toes pulled back.
Take a deep breath in and reach the arms up over head.
Lift up and then reach over toward the toes with a flat back. Grab hold of any part of the feet, ankles or legs that you can find while maintaining a flat back.
Draw the chest toward the toes.
Draw the shoulders away from the ears and bring the elbows closer in to the body.
Stay active in this pose by continuing to reach the chest forward.
With each exhale sink a little deeper.
Hold for at least 30 seconds to allow the hamstrings and lower back to release.
Benefits for Athletes
- Opens hamstrings
- Releases lower back
- Stretches calves
- Induces relaxation
Common Misalignments & Tips for Better Form
- Back is rounded. It is easy to go too far in this pose. As soon as you feel your back begin to round and your hips begin to loose their strong grounding in the floor, back up. Draw the belly button into the spine to activate the abdominal muscles, which will protect your back. Stay in a place where you can maintain active stretching without straining to reach. It’s not necessary to touch your toes. Most athletes have tight hamstrings, so pay attention to what your body is telling you and only go as far forward as is comfortable.
- Hips feel too tight. To ease tightness in the hips and get a better stretch in this pose, elevate the hips with a folded blanket, yoga mat or yoga block. One or two added inches of height may be enough to feel a real difference. Play around and see what works for you. Keep in mind your flexibility and need for added height will likely change from day to day.
- Can reach far enough to grab hold of the legs, ankles or feet. It’s OK to be wherever you are in this pose. And, it’s OK to keep the knees slightly bent. Another option is to use a strap around both feet, holding on to the ends of the strap with either hands. Play with what feels best and where you can find the best stretch.