In Sanskrit ardha means ‘half’, padma means ‘lotus’, paschima means ‘back’ and at tan means ‘to stretch’. Therefore, ardha padma paschimottanasana can be translated as the ‘half lotus back stretching pose’.
This asana is very similar to janu sirshasana. The main difference is that one leg is folded on top of the opposite thigh. It is therefore a little more difficult and applies a greater flexion on the bent leg. This asana should be practised by those people who find janu sirshasana reasonably easy and who want to further loosen up the legs beyond that obtainable from janu sirshasana. People with very stiff legs should not attempt this asana.
(advanced form) Sit on the floor with both legs straight.
Fold the left leg and place the left foot on the right thigh; this is called the half lotus position.
Try to place the left foot as high as possible so that in the final pose it will firmly massage the abdominal organs.
But don’t strain.
If you are able, fold your left arm behind your back and try to grasp the toes of the left foot; to do this exhale deeply and bend slightly forwards.
Most people will find this difficult, in which case you should try the simplified form to be described shortly.
Relax the whole body, especially the back muscles.
This is the starting position.
This is the same as stage 2 for janu sirshasana except that the straight leg is grasped only by the right hand, the left hand remaining behind the back holding the toes of the left foot.
Also, unlike janu sirshasana, those who have supple spinal muscles should hold the big toe of the right foot with the index finger, middle finger and thumb of the right hand, instead of the left hand. Stage 3 This stage is exactly the same as given for janu sirshasana. The final pose is shown above. One should return to the starting position while breathing in. The procedure should then be repeated with the right leg folded on the left thigh.
Most people will find it difficult if not totally impossible to grasp the toes of the folded leg with the arm held behind the back. In this case, you should keep both arms in front of the body and grasp the straight leg with the two hands as described for janu sirshasana.