ANYONE can do yoga — and you don’t need to go to class regularly to see the benefits. All it takes is ten minutes of your time, in the comfort of your own home, or slot it into your regular exercise regime. This week: The tension-busting benefits of a seated forward bend.


A SEATED forward bend, or paschimottanasana, is not my favourite pose. My hamstrings cry out as I fold forward, and my body seems to gets stuck, nose hovering way above my knees.

However, as with so many things in life, it’s the yoga poses we don’t like doing that we need to do more regularly. As well as the physical benefits this pose brings — that intense stretch to the hamstrings and the entire back — our organs get a work-out too. It stimulates circulation to the liver, kidneys, ovaries and uterus, which can improve digestion and fertility, relieve period pain and ease symptoms of menopause.

The forward fold of the body also results in a natural change to our breathing pattern. The exhale becomes slightly longer than the inhale, which slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, relaxing and calming the body. This, in turn, has a therapeutic effect on headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure and fatigue.

So, whether you like it of not, a seated forward bend may be the way to calm both your body and mind.

SIT on a folded blanket with your legs straight out in front of you.

Find your sitting bones — be warned, this isn’t pretty! Do this by rocking on to your left side and taking hold of your right haunch, pulling the flesh out to the side. Repeat on the other side. Even skinny minnies have to do this, I promise!

Place your fingertips on the floor either side of the hips. Flex your toes and lift your chest. Take a few breaths here, focusing on the inhale and exhale.

Inhale and lift your arms straight above your head. As you exhale, fold forward. Hinge from the hips, keeping the heart lifted to avoid rounding the spine too much.

Take hold of the sides of the feet or, if you can’t reach them, hold a strap (a tie or old pair of tights work well) and hook it round the balls of the feet. Keep your arms straight.

Work actively: with each inhale, lift the chest to lengthen the spine; with each exhale, fold a little deeper into the pose.

Stay here for up to 20 breaths.

To release, lift the torso slowly upright. Hug knees into chest to release any residual tension.


SEATED forward bends are not recommended for asthmatics because they restrict the airways slightly. And if you have a back injury, don’t fold forward — try to lift the chest and flex the toes instead.

If your problem is stiffness, bend the knees a little and make good use of that strap.

IF YOU have a yoga question, email

First published in the Irish Daily Mail, May 12, 2015