Paschimottanasana in Sanskrit means “intense stretch of the west”.
Start by sitting in the Staff posture, with your legs straight in front of you and the back upright, with the spine elongated. Breathe in and on the next exhalation bend forward from the hips, instead of the waist, bringing the chest forward and down instead of trying to bring the head to the floor. Keep the shoulders soft and open, breathe normally from the nose. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and release.
This posture helps to stretch the spine, shoulder and hamstring muscles.
It is also said to increase appetite, reduce obesity, good for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, sinusitis, improves digestion and stimulates the internal organs including liver, kidney and uterus. This posture is contra indicated in cases of asthma and diarrhoea.
As this posture applies a lot of pressure on the back it is best to perform this under supervision from a teacher before trying it on your own.