Prasarita Padottanasana / Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend
July at Reyn Studios is all about reflecting, decompressing, and growing from a place of awareness and stability. To cool both the physical and metaphysical body, we will be breaking down Prasarita Padottanasana ((pra-sa-REE-tah pah-doh-tahn-AHS-anna,) Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend,) and exploring some of its variations. Folding poses are associated with turning inward. They are a time to slow down and turn the focus towards yourself, acknowledging and releasing ideas and patterns that are not serving to the self or others, and refocusing your awareness to those which are. Prasarita Padottanasana calms the mind and soothes the nerves, something all of us could use a bit more of in the oppressive New Orleans heat and contentious political atmosphere. By exploring familiar shapes such as Prasarita Padottanasana, we are able to feel the impacts of micro adjustments and optimal alignment in our practice. The sense of empowerment we find in this asana coincides with the strengthening of the thighs, stabilization of the knee joints, and lengthening of the hips, hamstrings, and calves. Habitual practice of Prasarita Padottanasana improves the strength and flexibility of the spine as well. In our constant attempt to manage our stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, Prasarita Padottanasana is a welcome addition to our practice as it is associated with an improvement in these areas. A four month study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that participants in yoga, particularly a practice that incorporated the wide-legged forward bend, showed a reduction of blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate as compared to the control group.
Our practice is inspired and initiated for a variety of reasons, but the improved sense of well being, health, and harmony are results that keep us coming back to the mat. In a world that often feels demanding, insensitive, intolerant, and detached, it is our work as yogis to do the self work that allows us to fight the fatigue this environment cultivates. We must rejuvenate ourselves with our practice and our community in order to counter negativity and enhance compassion and tolerance. In order to utilize the benefits of yoga we must practice from a place of self-awareness, grounding and centering. From a strong foundation we are able to expand, stretch, and grow. In the words of yogini CHARITY FERREIRA “Whatever your intention, when you make positive changes grounded in self-awareness, you can connect with the truth of who you are and why you do what you do.”
Prasarita Padottanasana A
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) facing one of the long edges of your sticky mat. Step or lightly hop your feet apart anywhere from 3 to 4 1/2 feet (often aiming to have the ankles in line with the wrists when the arms are outstretched is ideal)
- If you need a bit more support walk the feet towards one another a bit.
Rest your hands on your hips, shoulders firm on the body, ribs cinched in.
Check that feet are parallel to each other. Lift your inner arches by drawing up on the inner ankles, and press the outer edges of your feet and ball of the big toe firmly into the floor.
Engage the thigh muscles by drawing them up and back.
Inhale and lift your chest, lengthening front torso so it feels slightly longer than the back.
Exhale and, maintaining the length of the front torso, hinge at the waist to lean the torso forward from the hip joints.
As your torso approaches parallel to the floor, press your fingertips onto the floor directly below your shoulders. Extend your elbows fully. Your legs and arms then should be perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
Inhale draws the spine into the back torso so that your back is slightly concave from the tailbone to the base of the skull. Bring your head up, keeping the back of the neck long, and direct your gaze upward toward the ceiling (think cow pose).
Energetically push your top thighs straight back (without hyper-extending the knees) to help lengthen the front torso, and draw the inner groins away from each other to widen the base of your pelvis.
Keep the concavity in the back as you exhale, walking the fingertips between the feet.
Take a few more breaths and with an exhalation press your inner palms actively into the floor, fingers pointing forward. Bend your elbows straight back (like chaturanga) and lower your torso and head into a full forward bend maintaining the length in the torso as you go.
Modifications for Greater Access or Depth
If you have the flexibility to move your torso into a full forward bend, walk your hands back until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms parallel (again, think chaturanga). Be sure to keep your arms parallel to each other and widen the shoulder blades across the back. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Option to grip a block longwise between the forearms, pressing the hands actively into the floor. This action of the arms will also get you ready for poses like Headstand variations and Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Pose).
Balance the weight evenly between the four corners of your foot to help keep your hips in the same plane as your heels, as there is a tendency to lean back, causing undue tension.
The idea here is to get your head below your heart, which will reduce “hot-headedness” and invite an introspective quality that is emotionally and energetically nourishing. Bringing the head to a block if it does not reach the floor facilitates this connection and calming of the senses.
Bend your knees if you need to for this variation.
When you find yourself in a steady and comfortable position, take 5-10 deep breaths, without constricting the back of the throat. On particularly hot days, try exhaling through your mouth to let go of excess internal heat. Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
To come out, bring your hands back on the floor below your shoulders and lift and lengthen your front torso. Then with an inhalation, rest your hands on your hips, pull your tailbone down toward the floor, and swing the torso up. Walk or hop your feet back into Tadasana.
Prasarita Padottanasana B:
Follow the same set up as for the A variation.
Head reaches to the floor, crown may rest on the floor.
Hands remain on hips
Prasarita Padottanasana C:
Maintain the same actions as previous variations for basic set up and alignment.
Clasp hands at sacrum.
Squeeze the palms together, drawing the elbows back, muscularly opening the heart and shoulders.
Work with gravity in the fold, crown of the head reaching for the floor, hands and draw away from the spine.
Prasarita Padottanasana D:
Maintain the same actions as previous variation for basic set up and alignment.
From the folded position fingers reach for for toes.
Lock the index and middle finger around the big toe, elbows extend outward as you fold.