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Paschimottanasana Session 1
Place a couple of folded towels or yoga blocks on the floor, then sit on them with your knees in the crooked position – soles of feet on the floor, knees pointing upwards. Take a few breaths settling the back of your pelvic girdle downwards and allowing your spine to elongate upwards. Take a little time finding a foot position that most facilitates having a long vertical back (i.e. adjust feet distance from your hips). Ideally, legs will be parallel to each other so knees and feet are about hip-width apart – your feet will also be parallel to each other. Place your hands on the front of your knees - palms facing your chest, wrists to the sides of your knees. Pull hands towards you against the resistance supplied by the knees – use this to help broaden your shoulders and open your chest. Then, leaving your shoulders where they are, tilt your pelvic girdle forwards as much as you are able, as though trying to draw your lower abdomen to your thighs. Pause in this position, encouraging your chest to open further. Lift your hands forwards to shoulder level and then swing sideways and back, encouraging your thoracic spine to move into a back bend. Hold for a few breaths, then swing your arms forwards and replace hands on knees, and elongate your spine into an essentially straight and upright position.
From sitting on a couple of folded towels or yoga blocks as above, have legs in the crooked position and hands resting the front of knees. Use the pull of your hands against your knees to help tilt your pelvic girdle forwards and bring your lower abdomen, then upper abdomen, and then lower ribs against your thighs. Pause, feeling the length of your spine and the openness of your chest. Wrap your arms around your legs, and, keeping your chest open, aim to get the front of your trunk firmly pressed against your thighs. This may be as far as you wish to go – but, if you wish to move deeper in the pose, then : keeping your trunk firmly pressed against your thighs, slowly slide your legs forwards so they become straighter. If your trunk and thighs start to be less firmly pressed against each other then you have straightened your legs too far and you need to bend your knees up a little. Head and neck stay in line with the rest of the spine throughout. Hold for a few breaths, enjoying the lengthening in the back of the legs and back of the trunk. To release, gently slide your feet towards your hips, unwrap your arms and lift the trunk back to vertical.
Sit on folded towels or yoga blocks with legs in front in crooked position (see above). Knees and feet can be further apart than hip-width if you wish – but do have your feet pointing in the same horizontal direction as your knees. Place your palms on the front of your knees with fingers pointing inwards (i.e. wrists on outside edge of knees). Use the pull of hands against knees to help you to broaden your shoulders and open your chest. Inhaling, move one hand forwards and sideways so the arm becomes straight and pointing sideways (palm facing forwards). Continuing to inhale, lift the arm sideways to pointing upwards (palm still facing forwards). Exhaling, reverse the arm movement, returning the hand to the knee. Repeat to the other side. Repeat 2 to 4 more times to each side.
Find a comfortable position and practise a relaxation method of your choice. You could try the following, lying down as a relaxation practice or sitting as a breathing/meditation practice. As you inhale, think the words “I receive understanding”. As you exhale, think the words “I give understanding”. Remember not to rush sitting up and standing after practising relaxation as it causes the blood pressure to fall, which can cause dizziness if one moves too quickly.