Yoga - UPAVISHTHAKONASANA AND PASCHIMOTTANASANA
by B.K.S. Iyengar
(Paschim: west or the front of the body; Utana: intense stretch)
This asana is also known as Ugrasana or Brahmacharyasana. 'Ugra' means powerful and formidable while 'brahmacharya' means self-restraint and celibacy. Therefore, one can understand from its different names that this posture, which leads to an intense stretch of the back, can develop formidable power and self-restraint in the practitioner.
1. Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in the front.
2. Move the heels away from you, and extend the legs so that their backs touch the floor.
3. Keep both feet close together.
4. Place the palms alongside the hips. Lift the hips off the floor and gently move them back. This helps one to sit erect and exactly on the center of the buttock bone.
5. Lift the spine up, move shoulder blades closer to each other and roll the shoulders back.
6. Without tightening the muscles on the back of your trunk, gently move them towards the frontal body.
7. Grip the sides of the feet with your palms and bend the body from the pelvic region, moving the head towards the legs.
8. Move the chin away from the chest and towards the legs.
9. Rest the head on your shin and stay in this position for at least a minute with normal breathing.
• Individuals unable to sit erect with straight legs, or who suffer from lower back pain, should sit on a folded blanket or a block of wood about 6 to 8 inches high.
• Do not bend the knees to touch the head to your feet but keep the heels extended. Touching the head on knees is not as important as maintaining the extension of the legs and the spine.
• Do not get disheartened if your palms do not touch the feet. Use a cloth belt around the soles of your feet and grip the free ends of the belt with both palms. Flex the elbows and move the spine towards your feet.
• You can intensify the stretch by bending the elbows and firmly gripping the belt or the sides of the feet.
• When one is tired or exhausted in summers, the same posture can be performed passively by resting the forehead on the shin. If the forehead does not touch the shin then one can place one or more folded blankets on the shin and rest the head on them. This quiets the frontal brain and relieves fatigue.
• The posture tones abdominal organs and keeps them free from sluggishness.
• It helps digestion and counteracts diabetes, constipation and flatulence.
• It strengthens your urinary system, especially the kidneys.
• The posture has a relaxing effect on the mind. The asana can be performed for as long as five minutes by resting the head either on the shin or on the blankets placed on the knees and on the shin.
• This asana is extremely beneficial for those suffering from hypertension.
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