Pose of the Week: Paschimottanasana

This week’s pose is PaschimottanasanaPaschima= west, Asana= posture/pose. It also is called Brahmacharyasana.

Image: The gang from Thursday night’s class preparing for Paschimottanasana – thanks to all xox

It’s an intense stretch of the west side of the body. The west side is the whole back of the body from the back of the head to the heels. Last week I referred to Purvottanasana, an intense stretch of the eastern side of the body, so the front or anterior side is opening.

Paschimottanasana is a forward bend. The origin is Dandasana, as we looked at in the last Pose of the Week. It is not a complex asana. You sit on the floor with your legs together out in front, bend forward and catch your feet. Interestingly, it is given 5 pages in Light on Yoga, showing the development of the asana with 10 photos.

Image:  Light on Yoga(Plate 162) with Noelle Perez-Christiaens. BKS Iyengar says, “One does not feel any weight on the back in correct Paschimottanasana”.

Paschimottanasana reduces sluggishness. On page 134 in Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar describes the effects: “The spines of animals are horizontal and their hearts are below the spine. This keeps them healthy and gives them great power of endurance. In humans the spine is vertical and the heart is not lower than the spine, so that they soon feel the effects of exertion and are also susceptible to the heart diseases. In Paschimottanasana the spine is kept straight and horizontal and the heart is at a lower level than the spine. A good stay in this pose massages the heart, the spinal column and abdominal organs, which feel refreshed and the mind is rested.”

The pose is also called Brahmacharyasana. Brahmacharya means religious study, self-restraint and celibacy. Brahmacharya is one of the Yamas. It is the first limb of the 8 limbs of Patanjali yoga. You may have been in class when we’ve chanted the 8 limbs in Sutra 2.29. The Yamas are principles for living in society to bring about harmony. They relate to moral and appropriate conduct so everyone can get along. They are:

Ahimsa – non-harming, non-violence (to all creatures)

Satya – truthfulness

Asteya – non-stealing

Brahmacharya – continence of body, mind, and speech

Aparigraha – non-hoarding.

Brahmacharya is often described as chastity. Generally, for most this does not work out very positively. Essentially what we should be addressing is a clear understanding of how we are and what drives us. It’s all about your mind. Whether your mind controls your body or your body controls your mind. The proper management of all our energies is vital to the success of spiritual transformation.

See you on the mat :)

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