Paschimottanasana, Caterpillar Pose & Purvottasana Counter pose- Practice and Benefits

Common Name(s)Caterpillar Pose, Paschimottasana in Sanskrit
MeridiansKidneys & Bladder
ChakrasSacral Chakra (Swadisthana Chakra) , Root Chakra (Muladhara Chakra)
ElementsWater , Earth

The Caterpillar Pose is a close variant of the Hath Yoga Asana- Paschimottasana. Caterpillar Pose is beneficial for spine, abdomen and exercises the deeper tissues of back and abdomen. This is an asana done in sitting position and involves forward bending and stretching. It impacts the deeper tendons and tissues around the spine and abdominal area. Besides, it is also helpful for lower back, knees and neck areas.

The meridians affected by it are Kidneys and Bladder. This asana involves sacral and root chakras. It seeks to regulate the functioning of water and earth elements and Pitta and Kapha Ayurveda doshas. 

Before getting into the pose, it is important to know the conditions in which it should be done, under the supervision of an expert guide.


Precautions and Contraindications

1/3. If you already have a problem of sciatica, then you should use a pillow to rest your hips on. The pillow used shall be such which raises the level of your hips above the level of knees. If still not comfortable, it is better not to do it. When you are seated, be mindful of how the hips are rotating. The correct pose is that these shall rotate forward, not backward while sitting. 

2/3. If there are any issues with the lower back and is not flexible enough to get into the asana properly, it is suggested to keep the spine straight.

3/3. In case the hamstrings are tight, you can bend the knees which shall be supported by a bolster which shall keep the spine round. 


How to do this Asana?

1/4. Sit in a comfortable position. Use a pillow to keep beneath the hips for comfortable posture.

2/4. Keep both the legs in front and fold the upper body forward over the legs. This is where there is a difference between Paschimottasana and Caterpillar pose. In the Paschimottasana, the knees are kept straight and are not bent, but in caterpillar pose, these are bent. 

3/4. Allow your back to bend and try holding your toes while you bend. You should bend to the extent this is possible.

4/4. The head should be in alignment with the forward bending spine.


Benefits of Paschimottanasana or Caterpillar pose

Some of the best advantages of doing this asana for the practitioner are…

1/8. The ligaments present at the back of spine get stressed by the forward stretch of upper body.

2/8. The organs present in the stomach region are compressed which helps in improving digestion.

3/8. Kidneys are stimulated by compression which gives these the massage and exercise these need for proper functioning.

4/8. In this pose of forward bending, the heart is also massaged as it is below the spine

5/8. Experts also believe this posture to improve the sex drive in people, which can help impotent people to help in their sexual health.

6/8. Caterpillar pose is a good restorative pose for those who find it difficult to do the Paschimottasana because it relaxes the back, shoulders and hips region of the body.

7/8. The people with bulky stomach who still want to do yoga find Caterpillar pose to be a rather convenient one to do. 

8/8. It helps in relaxing the parasympathetic nervous system which is vital to bring peace of mind and take care of stress, anxiety and depression.


Some other benefits

Since it is a relaxing pose, it is also considered a viable counter pose of the sitting meditation posture. 


Alternatives and Options

If you find it difficult to attain the right posture for any reason, we are providing some of the alternative or options for some of these reasons. 

1/5. If hamstrings are tight and you are not able to bend forward, then you should bend the knees to the extent required and put a bolster beneath these for support. 

2/5. If you feel strain in neck while doing this asana and the weight of head is not supported ably by the neck, then you can hold the head in hands by resting the elbows on legs. This would allow for support to the weight of the head.

3/5. In order to relax in the pose, you can rest the chest on a bolster.

4/5. A very good alternative of this pose is done by resting legs up a wall as against the floor and performing the similar posture in that position. This is particularly good for those who work standing all the day. 

5/5. Some variations can also be done by altering the position of hand. You can rest your elbows on thighs or on floor. 


Time Duration of Caterpillar Pose

It is important that you stay in the pose for some time in order to derive its benefits. Generally, a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes shall be spent in this pose for achieving benefits. If you are not able to hold on to this pose for this time period, do hold it for the time you are comfortable.


How to Come Out of the Caterpillar Pose?

Once you have attained the right posture and stayed in there for the required time period, it is important to know the right of way coming out it. This can be done easily as per steps given below-

1/4. Use your hands to push the floor away and roll up. Do not be in a haste. 

2/4. Once you are up, you can put the weight of body on hands to release the stress on hips and free them. Shake the legs a bit. 

3/4. Do a gentle backbend while sitting and resting on the hands and come to a tabletop position.

4/4. Make a twist to your body while seating to release the stress of this pose


Purvottasana – Counter-pose to Paschimottasana

Every asana has a counter pose just to bring in the balance after completing the asana. Paschimottasana or Caterpillar has a counter-pose in Purvottasana. Purvottasana is practiced after coming out of the Caterpillar pose. 

1/5. While remaining sitting with no forward bending, the hands are slowly rolled backwards while keeping in alignment with the shoulders. 

2/5. Palms rest on ground with fingers point to the hips or away from you, whatever convenient. 

3/5. Slowly, the body weight is transferred on the arms and palms and the hips are uplifted from the ground. 

4/5. The legs are also stretched forward to the extent that full feet remains grounded. 

5/5. The head is also slowly dropped back as hips are uplifted so that the spine makes an arc.


Benefits of Counter-pose: Purvottasana

1/3. Stretches arms, spine, stomach muscles, shoulders, chest and ankles.

2/3. Strengthens triceps, wrists, back and legs.

3/3. Retains the balanced posture of the body.

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