Paschimottanasana on a chair

(Also called Ugrasana or Brahmacharyasana)
Paschima=west, implying back of body
Ugra=formidable

This asana stretches the hamstrings and encourages healthy circulation in the pelvis. It also regulates menstrual flow and stimulates the ovaries in women.

Preparation: A flat, broad-based chair, stool or other similar prop can be used. Place a yoga mat onto your chair or stool, folded over to soften any hard edge on the front. Have two yoga blocks or other similar prop, blanket and cushions. Pleat the blanket neatly.

  • Sit on the stool bench so that the top section of thighs is in contact with it.
  • Straighten out the legs to two foam blocks stacked on top of one another and place the balls of the feet on to them with the heels on the floor and the toes pointing up following the angle of the foot. Place blanket and cushion on to your legs with the cushion positioned where you think your head might come to. Or else place second chair over your legs with suitably high cushions/blocks for your head as in picture two
  • Pivot forwards from the hips ensuring that the top of the thigh just below the gluteal creases are pressing into the front edge of the chair. Draw up the front of the legs with internal sensation deepening.
  • As you extend, deepen the back thigh and lift from the front knees to the front groins.
  • Lift the chest.
  • Pressing back the top of the thighs, extend the chest further lifting the rib cage up and forwards extending from the lower abdominals.
  • Keeping as much extension as possible bring your hands to your feet or to the floor, picture one, or to the back of a chair, picture two, and lower your head to a support, cushion or other.

Duration: Stay in the pose until the mind is calm and the breath absorbing or else come out after 15-30 natural breath cycles.


Contraindications:
Where stiffness or tightness is felt in the shoulders, neck, chest or spine, a second chair can be used to extend to. Here, one should reach for its back with its legs over your legs and the seat facing you with an appropriately high stack of cushions, blankets or blocks for your head on its seat.

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Quotes

The Buddha reminds us of the right approach in his famous metaphor of the raft from the Majjhima Nikaya.

In it, he describes a situation, where a man standing on the near shore, which is dangerous, needs to get to the far shore, which is safe.

There are no bridges or ferries so he builds a raft; it is not fancy, but adequate to get him across. Once on that far shore it has served its purpose, and a wise man leaves it where it is, without dragging it with him as an encumbrance.

— Buddha