Prasarita Padottanasana: Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose

prosarita ashleighsergeant

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.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • 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.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. 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. 
  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 creases, keeping the front of your torso long.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens legs and back.
  • Stretches groins, hamstrings, and hips.

SANSKRIT:

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


Salamba Bhujangasana: Sphinx Pose

sphinx ashleighsergeant

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

Related to the cobra pose, the sphinx pose is a more restorative way to stretch and lengthen the spine. Salamba bhujangasana (SA-lumb-aa BHU-jung-AAHS-uh-nuh) is one of the gentlest backbends in a yoga practice, making it a great entry point for beginners and an effective warm up at the beginning of practice. Sphinx pose is also a great way to reduce stress and stimulate the abdominal organs.

Philosophy + Origin

Cobras and snakes can evoke feelings of fear, discomfort, and disgust. But in Vedic traditions, the cobra symbolizes overcoming and mastering fear. Nataraja, an incarnation of Shiva, is often portrayed with a cobra draped around his neck. The cobra’s venom is said to represent avidya, or ignorance — the veil that prevents us from recognizing universal truths. By mastering fear and learning to see beyond the surface we can come to know freedom, or liberation.

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