Prasarita Padottanasana | Wide-legged Forward Bend
Prasarita Padottanasana Benefits
•Strengthens and stretches the inner and back legs and spine.
•Tones the abdominal organs;
•Calms the brain and sympathetic nervous system;
•Relieves mild backache, fatigue, and mild depression.
•Energizes heart and lungs; reduces blood pressure.
•Relieves stomach ache by reducing acidity;
•Strengthens knees joint and makes hip joint supple.
•Regulates menstrual flow Contraindications/ Cautions
• Lower-back problems: Avoid the full forward bend.
•Low blood pressure – come out gradually to avoid dizziness.
•If you are able to reach your head to the ground, avoid tilting head and compressing neck.
Step by Step
1. Stand in tadasana, facing one of the long edges of your sticky mat, then step or lightly hop your feet apart from 3 to 5 feet (depending on your height: taller people should step wider). Rest your hands on your hips. Make sure your inner feet are pigeon toed. 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 as well as engaging mula bandha. Inhale and lift your chest, making the front torso slightly longer than the back, while still maintaining a slight posterior pelvic tilt.
2. Exhale, maintaining the length of the front torso, 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. Move your spine evenly 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.
3. Lengthen the front torso, and draw the inner groins away from each other to widen the base of your pelvis. Take a few breaths. As you maintain the concavity of your back and the forward lift of your sternum, walk your fingertips between your feet. Take a few more breaths and then, with an exhalation, bend your elbows and lower your torso and head into a full forward bend. Make sure as you move down that you keep your front torso as long as possible. If possible rest the crown of your head on the floor.
4. Press your inner palms actively into the floor, fingers pointing forward. 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. 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.
5. Stay in the pose anywhere from 20 seconds to 1 minute. To come out, bring your hands back on the floor below your shoulders and lift and lengthen through the torso. Then with an inhalation, rest your hands on your hips, pull your tail bone down toward the floor, and swing the torso up. Walk or hop your feet back into Tadasana.
Variations: The pose as described here is technically known as Prasarita Padottanasana I. Prasarita Padottanasana II is a more challenging variation. Perform step 1 above then bring the hands into anjali mudra but behind the back – prstanjali mudra. To do this lean the torso slightly forward and round the back. Then press the palms together behind the back with the thumbs resting on the sacrum, fingers pointing toward the floor. Exhale and turn the fingers, first toward the back, then upward, so they point toward the ceiling. Slip the pinky sides of the hands up the back as high as possible, ideally between the shoulder blades. Roll the shoulders back and lift the chest, pressing the pinkies deeply into the spine. Finally exhale into the forward bend and bring the head close to or onto the floor. If this hand position isn’t possible, simply cross arms behind the back and hold the elbows with the opposite hands.
Beginner’s Tips: Some beginners aren’t able to easily bring their hands to the floor and need a good deal of support in this forward bend to protect their lower back. Try raising the hands off the floor by resting each on the end of a block. If the back is still rounded, then use a folding chair to support the forearms. Always remember in forward bends to emphasize the length of the front torso.
Misalignments: Watch for students leaning back into their knees. Have them shift their weight slightly forward to the balls of the feet, drawing the sit bones up towards the sky thus causing the legs to become perpendicular to the floor. This will help to increase the hamstring stretch and will protect the knees.