Our bodies contain a lot of wisdom. Martha Graham, a brilliant pioneer of modern dance, said, “The body never lies.” Our bodies are full of truth! If we practice tuning in, we can learn a lot and perhaps even honor what our bodies are telling us.
The 8th posture in the Warrior Flow is paschimottanasa, intense stretch of the west. As you practice this posture, tune into your body, listening deeply. Perhaps you’ll hear a story you haven’t heard before. See if you can allow this deep listening to extend beyond the practice of this posture and into your desire to create positive change in the world.
1. Begin by sitting with your legs extended in front of you. Reach under and spread the fleshy parts of the buttocks to expose the Sitz bones, making sure the Sitz bones are rooted with the earth. Keep the feet engaged, sending energy out through the heels, and toes pointed up towards the sky. Radiate energy up through the crown of the head, lengthening up along the back of the neck as well as down along the spine. Arms at your sides.
2. On your next in breath draw the arms up, fingertips extending up towards the sky. While radiating energy up through the fingertips, simultaneously draw the shoulders down away from the ears, feeling the dynamic tension of extending up as well as down.
3. On your next in breath, radiate energy up through the crown of the head. On your next out breath, hinge from the hips and draw the torso forward 50% of how far you think you can come forward in this moment. Allow a complete out breath, and on your next in breath come back up to neutral. Make any adjustments you need to make, and find a little more space in the body.
4. On your next in breath, once again, radiate energy up through the crown of the head. On your next out breath hinge from the hips, and this time draw the torso forward 80% of how far you think you can come forward in this moment. Use the in breath to lengthen through the crown of the head, the fingertips, and the heels. Use the out breath to deepen, perhaps coming forward a little more.
5. Once you discover what your 100% expression of paschimottanasana is for this moment, release. Let go of all the muscular efforting that is not needed to maintain the structure of this seated forward bend. This doesn’t mean collapse. Rather, how can you maintain the integrity of the structure of the posture while allowing in some softness and ease? Can you relax the skin and relax the jaw? What else can you let go of while still maintaining the integrity of the structure? Allow the back to round and the head, neck, and shoulders to hang forward.
6. Maintain the posture for 3 to 5 breaths. On an in breath, draw the torso upright. Take a moment here to notice the effects of paschimottanasana, intense stretch of the west (the west being the back body).
* If it’s helpful, you can use a strap in this posture. Place the strap around the balls of the feet, imagine that the strap is an extension of the arms, and hold the strap firmly yet gently. No pulling!
Contraindications and Cautions:
• Back Injury: Only perform this pose under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
• Opens the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
• Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
• Improves digestion
• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
• Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
• Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
• Traditional texts say that paschimottanasana increases appetite, reduces obesity, and cures diseases.