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
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Upward Facing Dog Pose
Urdhva mukha svanasana (OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna) is a challenging backbend commonly seen as part of the transition series in vinyasa yoga.
Philosophy + Origin
The Mahabharata tells a story about a loyal dog who accompanies Yudhishthira, one of the five Pandava brothers, to the gates of heaven. Lord Indra greets the pair at the gates, but tells Yudhishthira that the dog is not allowed into heaven. Upon hearing this, the brother argues for the sake of the dog, telling Lord Indra of its devotion and loyalty. Yudhishthira says that because the dog has been so loyal to him, he will return that loyalty. At this moment, the dog is revealed to be Dharma, and Yudhisthira and his loyal companion are welcomed joyously into heaven. When practicing upward facing dog, remind yourself of the loyalty and dedication you have to your practice and showing up each day in your life. Persistence is always rewarded.