Cast your mind back if you will, dear reader, to blog position 23, Janushirasana. This posture actually comes with a second part, a sequel almost, but like Batman movies, we like to move things around a little, just for the fun of it.
Between Janushirasana (head to knee pose) and Ardha-Matsyendrasana (spine twist), comes Paschimotthanasana, or stretching pose.
And boy oh boy, it lives up to it’s name. This posture is done during the final straight of the series for a reason: to enable a deep leg stretch that gets rid of all traces of Sunday’s 13-miler with hills.
Paschimotthanasana: Step by Step
Sit down with both legs extended forward in front of you, feet together and flexed towards you.
1. Shuffle back a few times so that you’re sitting right on your sitting bones (pelvis). Stretch your arms and body forward, hooking your middle and index fingers around your big toes. Bend your knees as much as necessary to reach your toes.
2. Keeping your spine straight and engaging your abs, start to pull your toes towards your face. You can keep your legs bent, but extend from the heel, stretching your calves, hamstrings, glutes and lower back (the stretch deepens the more you can extend your legs).
3. Always look forward and towards your toes, never look down; this is not a curved-spine posture. Your aim is to stretch your forehead towards your toes and not towards your knees, so keep your spine straight and lead with your chest.
Paschimotthanasana: The Benefits
“This posture is fantastic for runners,” says Olga Allon, director of Hot Bikram Yoga in London (hotbikramyoga.co.uk). “It’s the deepest leg stretch of the series and comes at the point when you are at your most warm and your muscle tissue is very pliable.”
“This stretch improves the flexibility of the sciatic nerve, ankles, knees and hip joints and the last five vertebrae of the spine (the sacral vertebrae). You also use your arm strength to help build flexibility in your legs and expand the solar plexus. Keeping your back straight will engage back muscles including the trapezius, deltoid, erectus femoris, and bicep muscles.”
The best part of this posture? You can get a really deep stretch without having to worry about standing on one leg.
Bikram specialist Olga Allon teaches at London's Hot Bikram Yoga.