Ardha means half, baddha means caught, restrained and padma a lotus. Paschimottanasana (Plate 81) is the posture where the back of the whole body is intensely stretched.
1. Sit on the floor, with the legs stretched straight in front. (Plate 35)
2. Bend the left leg at the knee, and place the left foot over the right thigh. The left heel should press the navel and the toes should be stretched and pointing. This is the half lotus posture.
3. Bring the left arm round the back from behind and with an exhalation catch the big toe of the left foot. If the toe cannot be grasped easily, swing back the left shoulder.
4. After holding the left big toe, move the bent left knee nearer to the extended right leg. Stretch the right arm forward and catch the right foot with the right hand, the palm touching the sole. (Plates 64 and 65)
Due to the half lotus pose, the knees become flexible enough to execute the full lotus pose. While placing the chin on the knee of the extended leg, the bent knee is brought close to the stretched leg. This gives a good pull to the navel and abdominal organs. Blood is made to flow round the navel and the genital organs. The navel is considered to be a nerve centre, and the Svadhisthana Chakra, one of the purificatory fly-wheels in the human nervous system, is situated there. This chakra corresponds to the hypo-gastric plexus. The pose is recommended for persons with rounded and drooping shoulders-.
5. Inhale, stretch the back and gaze up for a few seconds, without releasing the grip on the left big toe.
6. Exhale, move the trunk forward by bending the right elbow outwards. Rest the forehead, then the nose, then the lips and lastly the chin on the right knee. (Plate 66)
7. In the initial stages, the knee of the extended leg will be lifted off the floor. Tighten the thigh muscles and rest the entire back of the extended right leg on the floor.
8. Stay in this position from 30 to 60 seconds, breathing evenly.
9. Inhale, raise the head and trunk, release the hands, straighten the left leg and come to position 1.
10. Repeat the pose on the other side, keeping the left leg stretched out on the ground, bending the right knee and placing the right foot on the left thigh. Stay for the same length of time on both sides.
11. If you cannot hold the toe with the hand from behind, hold the extended leg with both hands and follow the above techniques. (Plate 67)
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