Prasarita Padottanasana: Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose
Prasarita padottanasana (pra-sa-REE-tah pah-doh-tahn-AHS-an-uh) is a big stretch for the hamstrings and inner leg line. With many variations available, this pose is accessible for most practitioners. This is also a great pose in lieu of headstand.
Philosophy + Origin
Prasarita padottanasana has found its way into almost every style of yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar taught several variations of this posture, labeling them as A, B, C, and D. The most commonly practiced variation is prasarita padottanasana A. Prasarita padottanasana B is when the hands are on the 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.
- Place a pillow, bolster, or chair under your head to bring the ground closer to you.
- Option to place blocks or a chair under your hands.
- Begin standing facing the long edge 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. Look to your feet and check that your middle toes are facing the same direction.
- 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 creases, keeping the front of your torso long.
- Pause when you find your torso parallel with the floor. Press your fingertips firmly into the floor, hands directly below the shoulders. Straighten your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, just like your legs.
- Keep the torso long and start to walk your fingertips back toward your legs so that they are between your feet. Bend your elbows and allow your torso and head to drop into a full forward bend. If accessible, place the crown of your head on the floor between your feet.
- 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 lift away from your ears.
- Hold this pose for up to 60 seconds. When you’re ready to release, walk your 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 standing.
- Seated wide-legged forward bend | Upavista konasana
- Extended side angle | Utthita parsvakonasana
- Firefly pose | Titibhasana
- Strengthens legs and back.
- Stretches groins, hamstrings, and hips.
- Prasarita = stretched, expanded
- Pada = foot
- Ut = intense
- Tan = to extend
- Asana = pose
Malasana: Squat Pose or Garland Pose
A great stretch for ankles and the lower back, Malasana (mahl-AH-sana), which is also referred to as Squat or Garland pose, opens the groin and tones the belly. While comfortable for some, Malasana can be difficult for others. Appropriate adjustments and modifications can help students enjoy the benefits of this posture while strengthening and opening the muscles needed to practice Malasana and other postures.
Philosophy + Origin
There are many beautiful attempts to defend the translation of Malasana as “Garland Pose.” While mala most commonly refers to a garland or rosary, many students have a difficult time understanding how this imagery applies to the pose. Some teachers argue that the shape of the body depicts the bead on a mala, or perhaps the arms look like a mala or garland hanging from the neck. Other teachers will use the story of how this posture is traditionally taken when receiving the gift of a garland from a spiritual teacher. While all very poetic, there’s another lesser-known understanding of Malasana that makes more sense. The word mala can also be translated as excrement. Considering the digestive benefits of this posture, it makes a lot more sense.