(It’s a very, very powerful posture)
Paschimottanasana is a seated forward bend with legs extended straight in front of you. It’s best if your knees point towards the ceiling so the feet are neither rocked in nor rocked out. If you find that you can hardly fold at all – don’t be discouraged. It’s very common – it’s just no one gets their picture taken if they aren’t touching their toes yet!! Some find it helpful to bend the knees and rest the chest on the thighs. You can also sit on the front edge of a folded blanket.
Either your standing forward bends will be easier – or your seated forward bend will be easier. It reflects certain anatomical tensions in the neck and hips. If the seated forward bend is stubborn and unchanging, I suggest you work a variety of standing forward bends first to warm up for paschimottanasana. The folklore is that paschimottanasana is about “letting go” whatever that means. Let go of what? I could write a thesis on that…but generally it meant I needed to soften my edges, releasing the fixed ideas that I had about how the world should work. It involved letting others win disagreements, accepting discomfort, allowing change and opening to possibilities and opportunities in my life that I never would have considered. It was about choosing ease. For you it might mean letting go of fear and charging forward by being more active – engaging your thighs or activating your bicep muscles to pull you closer to your toes. It’s always good to try do so the thing that doesn’t come naturally in the moment. I feel lazy…activating my thighs (or some other part of my anatomy) may be just thing. If I’m struggling, then more ease is called for.
The bladder meridian runs down the entire back of the body, so being balanced with water will help as well. That might mean more water, but it also might mean less water – it’s about balance.
Experimentation is helpful here. That is a great thing about our yoga postures – they give us data about ourselves that we can use to refine our lives.
Most of all, like all things yoga, forward bend requires practice -so even if you don’t like it…keep practicing!!