Caterpillar Pose, Paschimottanasana, (pahs-chi-mo-TAHN-ah-sah-nuh)
Paschima (back) + uttana (intense stretch) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Yin Yoga Forward Bend
Surrender and release in this comforting forward bend.
Caterpillar Pose Fundamentals
Caterpillar Pose is a Yin Yoga version of the seated forward bend.
In Yin yoga, the names of poses are different, to highlight the different approaches and goals of the practice.
Caterpillar pose is fantastic for your abdomen and spine, but it also means to work the deeper tissues of the body. It particularly gets into the deep tissues of the abdomen and the back, helping you to release tension and detoxify.
The symbology of the caterpillar is always wonderful and you can use it as an intention in the practice. A caterpillar is a humble and simple creature, which is on the verge of transforming into a butterfly.This symbology can encourage you to turn inwards, accept yourself as you are now but also acknowledge you are going through a transformation.
Both physically and mentally, you will gain the best benefits when you surrender fully into the pose. Holding the pose for longer and using props to stay comfortable allows you to do that.
You can also be cautious of your breath and thoughts to still the mind. Allow gravity to do the work with your body. As you hold the pose, you will naturally get deeper into the stretch with no need to force it.
The Caterpillar Pose is a lovely asana to do after work and/or to prep for meditation. It’ll help you release tension from the body, still the mind, and turn inward.
Caterpillar Pose Benefits
- The pose stretches the spine and hamstrings, making you more flexible and supple.
- It stimulates the kidneys, adrenal glands, and urinary bladder meridians, improving the health and functions of these organs.
- Massages the organs for digestion, helping with metabolism and detoxification.
- Works on the deeper tissues of the torso and legs, releasing tension and blocks.
- It can be a great alternative for the active seated forward fold, especially if you feel tightness in the neck, back, shoulders, or hips.
- Eases the parasympathetic nervous system, helping with trauma-related issues, such as insomnia, anxiety, stress, or lack of self-worth.
How To Do Caterpillar Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
- Sit on your mat, legs stretched in front of you. Take a moment to calm your thoughts and become aware of your breathing.
- Begin to go forward with your torso, feel free to round it. You can also bend your knees to support the torso.
- Relax your body, bit by bit, and hold the pose for as long as you’d like, aim for at least 3 minutes and try to be as still as you can.
Tips And Tricks:
- Remember the three principles of yin yoga when practicing this pose – being still, going to your edge, and holding for time. If you are not aware of these, read our yin yoga article first.
- Bend your legs as much as you need or prop them up if the stretch in the hamstrings is too much for you. You shouldn’t feel any pain.
- You can round your spine, actually, you are encouraged to do so, except if you have low back issues which prevent flexion, in that case, keep the back straight.
- If you feel strained in the knees, activate your quads for a bit now and then, this could help you release.
- You can choose your favorite arm position, keep them on the thighs or the floor
- Traditionally this pose is held still for between three to five minutes. However, it is a type of practice where it is particularly important to listen to yourself, so feel free to cut it short or stay longer in the pose.
Caterpillar Pose Variations:
Caterpillar Pose Variation: With Props
Even if you don’t need props, it’s always a good idea to use them in yin yoga. They help you relax your muscles so you can work on your deeper tissues.
If you have tight hamstrings or feel uncomfortable around the knees, place a bolster or a folded blanket under the knees. This allows the spine to round and lessens the hamstring stretch.
Another good idea is to sit on a cushion, this is particularly useful for those who have sciatica. Note that it’s best to avoid the asana entirely if your sciatica is severe.
Another thing I love to do is place a bolster or a large pillow on top of the thighs. You can then rest your upper body and head on the pillow which allows you to fully melt into the pose.
Caterpillar Pose Variation: Legs Up The Wall
Another great variation for you could be the legs up the wall pose. This one is great for those who don’t do deep forward folds for any reason, but also for people who stand for long hours.
Simply lie in front of the wall, so your hips are a couple of inches away from it. Then lift your legs on the wall.
Prop your head and hips with a cushion or a folded blanket for more comfort.
Caterpillar Pose Variation: Feet Spread Apart
This variation is great for more flexible students who want to explore different sensations in their hamstrings. It is also good for pregnant women or if you have a larger belly.
Note that this asana is a bit more challenging, but you can use props to make it easier, like placing a cushion below the knees.
Spread your legs hip-width apart, then fold forward. Place a bolster between your legs, or if you are looking for that extra challenge, fold down between your thighs.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Hips rotating backward Your hips should rotate forward in this stretch – tilt them forward before you fall down. If that’s difficult prop yourself on a cushion and bend the knees more.
Although you can use props and lift your hips for mild sciatica, if it is severe, it is best to avoid Caterpillar Pose altogether. If your back condition doesn’t allow spine flexion, keep it straight, or avoid the asana. Keep your knees bent if you struggle with back pain or have hamstring injuries.
Half Shoelace Pose
Half Butterfly Pose
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