HOW TO PRACTICE Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose IN YOGA (Upavistha Konasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose is a wonderful way to end an asana practice. With many physical and mental benefits, this yoga pose is an ideal choice for winding down and soothing the nervous system.
Upavistha Konasana is similar in its form to what gymnasts and dancers practice as “straddle splits.” It’s often pictured as a super flexible athlete in a pancake form with their chest on the ground. It can be tempting then to push yourself too far in order to emulate the picture. But yoga calls for a more balanced approach to yoga practice, including focusing on listening to your body and respecting your current state of flexibility.
Practiced with care and attention to staying within your end-range of flexibility, this yoga pose can help create more length and extensibility in the inner thigh muscles and hips. This makes it an important asana in preparing for standing yoga poses, such as Warrior 2 and Extended Side Angle Pose.
If your hamstring or groin muscles are less flexible, you may find this position uncomfortable, but it should not cause any pain. Many yoga practitioners will find that elevating their hips on a folded blanket or two in Upavistha Konasana facilitates a proper pelvic tilt and maintains the natural spinal curves, making it easier to practice. It may also be that you need to practice with your knees bent a bit at first. Check out the Yoga 2.0 Tab for ideas on how to modify this yoga pose to work for your body.
Benefits of Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose
The stretch in Upavistha Konasana is often felt most acutely in the inner thighs (adductors) hamstrings, and groin, but the lengthening effect starts all the way at the back of the ankle and up the calves, making it a great way to stretch the whole leg. To maintain the position of the legs apart with the hips in flexion, the glutes, outer thighs and hips (abductors) will contract in order to keep the body stable, providing a balanced action in lower limbs, especially if you keep your feet and knees pointing upward, rather than rolling inward.
As you move into the yoga pose, your spinal extensor muscles will activate and should remain active in order to avoid collapsing into your pelvis. This helps strengthen the spinal extensors. Both the lengthening of the inner leg and the action of the spine also make this a good pose to offset extended time spent sitting at a computer, for example.
All forward bending yoga poses can be helpful in calming the mind and nervous system, and this asana is no exception, provided you don’t try to force your legs into a wider position. Try moving into Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend on a slow exhalation to set the stage. Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend can help soothe achy legs after a strong physical yoga practice, or at the end of a long day on your feet. Melt into this posture in a restorative version (see the Yoga 2.0 Tab for more information) to really feel the calming and soothing effects this asana can create.
How to do Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose
- Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your legs extended in front.
- Place your hands behind you for support and separate your legs so that they are at about a 90-degree angle to each other.
- Press your hands into the floor to help you lengthen your spine upward. Tilt your pelvic rim forward so that your tailbone points back behind you. Check to see if your pelvis is tilting back by palpating your lumbar spine. If you feel the “knobs” of the spinous processes sticking out in your low back, then your pelvis is tilting back. If your pelvis is tilting backward and your lumbar spine is rounded, place a folded blanket under your hips. If your pelvis is still tilting backward, place another blanket under your hips.
- If you feel a stretch in your adductors and/or hamstrings while you tilt your pelvis forward in an upright position, stay in this position and work with the pose here. It’s more important to maintain spinal integrity in the pose than it is to bend forward.
- If you’re not feeling a stretch here, place your hands on the floor in front of you and tilt your pelvis forward a little more. Stop when you feel a moderate stretch in the hamstrings and/or inner thighs.
- Flex your ankles and press the backs of your thighs into the ground.
- If your legs are rotating either backward or forward, rotate your thighs, either internally or externally, so that the backs of your knees point down toward the ground.
- Gradually walk your hands forward, maintaining length through your spine.
- Stop when you reach a moderate stretch.
- Breathe deeply and hold the yoga posture for a minute or two.
- Gently come out of the asana and bring your legs back together.