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Paschimottanasana: Seated Forward Bend Pose

Prasarita Padottanasana: Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose


A powerful way to increase flexibility in your entire body, Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend pose, or Prasarita Padottanasana (pra-sa-REE-tah pah-doh-tahn-AHS-anna), is accessible for most students with the right modifications in place. Not only is it beneficial for the health of the physical body, but Prasarita Padottanasana is also great for mental and emotional health, too. As an inversion, this pose can help boost your mood and calm your mind, making it a great pose for everyday practices.

Philosophy + Origin

A traditional Iyengar posture, Prasarita Padottanasana has found its way into almost every style of yoga and classes across the country. A wonderful way to open the body and help make more forward bends accessible, B.K.S. Iyengar taught several variations of this posture, labeling them as A, B, C, and D. The most commonly practiced variation (and the one described here) is Prasarita Padottanasana A. Prasarita Padottanasana B is when your hands are on your hips and the head is lifted off the ground, not resting on the mat. Prasarita Padottanasana C is the variation where the hands are interlaced and stretched behind the back and over the head as you fold. In the final variation taught by Iyengar, Prasarita Padottanasana D asks the student to grasp the big toe on each foot.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • When the head is unable to meet the floor, a pillow, bolster or chair can be used to give the crown of the head something to rest on.
  • For students who cannot reach their hands to the floor, use blocks or a chair instead.

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:

  • Lower back pain
  • Lower back injury
  • Sinus infection or congestion

TIPS:

As you approach this pose, and any other forward folds, one of the best things to keep in mind is that the goal is to maintain the length of your front torso. In an effort to go deeper into a pose, many students sacrifice this length at the expense of the pose’s alignment and, therefore, their comfort and physical health. Think about keeping all four sides of the spine long as you enter and deepen this pose, as if it’s a long column of light that you don’t want bend or alter.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. To enter Prasarita Padottanasana, begin in Mountain pose facing the long edges of your mat. Step your feet about four feet apart (it will vary slightly depending on your height) and place your hands on your hips. Starting with your foundation, look to your feet and check that the inner edges are parallel. Find all four corners of your feet and press equally through each, paying special attention to root down through the base of the big toe.
  2. Lift your kneecaps up to engage your thigh muscles. As you inhale, extend through your chest. As you exhale, begin to hinge forward from your hip joints, making sure that you are keeping the front of your torso long. Pause when you find your torso parallel with the floor. Use your fingertips to press firmly into the floor, hands directly below the shoulders. Straighten your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, just like your legs. Lift your gaze up slightly and take a few breaths here.
  3. As long as you can keep the torso long and equal front to back, start to walk your fingertips back towards your legs so that they are between your feet. On an exhale, bend your elbows and allow your torso and head to drop into a full forward bend. If it’s accessible, place the crown of your head on the floor between your feet.
  4. Use the palms of your hands to press into the floor. If your body allows, continue to move your hands back, fingers facing forward, until your upper arms (triceps and biceps) are parallel with the mat. Allow the breath to broaden your shoulder blades as you encourage your shoulders to soften away from your ears.
  5. Hold this pose for up to 60 seconds. When you’re ready to release, walk the hands forward so that they are under your shoulders and your torso is once again parallel with the floor. Use an inhale to lift up completely, hands on hips. Return to Mountain pose.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Supta Baddha Konasana
  • Uttanasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

  • Bakasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Pincha Mayurasana
  • Sirsasana
  • Utthita Parsvakonasana

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Opens chest
  • Strengthens and tones legs and back
  • Stretches groins, hamstrings, and hips
  • Relieves headaches and mild back pain
  • Tones and cleanses abdominal organs

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Conquer fear
  • Promotes safety and security
  • Energetically grounding
  • Calms the mind
  • Reduces and relieves fatigue
  • Improves mild depression
  • Reduces anxiety

SANSKRIT:

  • Prasarita = stretched, expanded
  • Pada = foot
  • Ut = intense
  • Tan = to extend
  • Asana = pose

MANTRA:

“Om Namah Shivaya”

As you expand body and mind in this pose, you can help to ease fears and eliminate negative energy by using the Hanuman Mantra.

 

MUDRA: Abhaya Hridaya Mudra

Known as the fearless heart mudra, you can practice it while seated by bringing the palms of your hands together at your heart. Allow your right wrist to cross over your left so that your palms are facing away from each other.  Bring the backs of your hands together and wrap your index fingers, middle fingers and pinky fingers. Join your ring fingers and your thumbs together to form a seal.

 

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