HOW TO PRACTICE Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend Pose IN YOGA (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend Pose
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend Pose (Sanskrit name: Prasarita Padottanasana) is one of the most grounding of the standing asanas. Its low center of gravity, symmetrical stance, and wide base of support provide a stable foundation for forward bending.
Because the head is below the heart, this yoga pose serves as a form of inversion. It can be used as a counterpose to more challenging yoga postures and, as is the case in all forward bends, can provide a relaxing preparation to Savasana.
Off the yoga mat, the asana can help ease tension at the end of the day to prepare the body for sleep. Yoga students who are not ready for Salamba Sirsasana (Headstand Pose), but still want to experience the benefits of practicing an inverted yoga pose, can use Prasarita Padottanasana as an alternate posture for this purpose.
Energetically, you can vary the experience of this yoga pose by employing different arm treatments. Pictured here is Version A of the asana. See our Yoga 2.0 tab for alternative arm placements.
Benefits of Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
The legs are active in this yoga pose, building a gentle strength in the lower body. The pose mobilizes the hips and lengthens the hamstring muscles and adductors (inner thighs). While the legs are active, the torso should surrender to gravity, making Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend a great way to decompress the spine. Erector spinae muscles and muscles of the low back receive a gentle yet deep stretch. Some people may experience a reduction of tension in the upper back, shoulders, and neck as the weight of the head gently tugs on the entire spine, releasing muscles that are often held and tight.
Like all forward bending yoga poses, Prasarita Padottanasana is also very soothing to the mind and nervous system. Like all inversions, it may relieve fatigue, as it can be gently energizing.
How to do Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend Pose
- Stand facing the long edge of your yoga mat. Separate the feet wide, a distance approximately equivalent to the length of your legs. A good marker of how wide they should be is to hold your arms out at shoulder height; place your feet below the line of your wrists. If your feet are too close together, the yoga pose will feel closed; if your feet are too wide, your legs won’t support you. Find a balance between openness and stability.
- Make sure the toes and heels of both feet are in line with each other, and the side edges of both feet are parallel with the top and bottom edges of your yoga mat.
- Ground down through both feet, activating the muscles in your inner thighs and hips.
- On an inhalation lift your sternum and ribcage up off the hips, getting taller through the crown of the head.
- Exhale, and hinge forward from your hips. Make sure you are not bending from your waist. Keep your spine long as you extend your torso forward.
- If your fingers can easily touch down on the floor, place the palms of your hands under your shoulders. You can also place a yoga block under each hand, or even place your hands on the seat of a chair if your hamstrings are very tight.
- Notice if you feel any pain or strain in your lower back. If so, bend your knees slightly to relieve the tension.
- Once your hands have found a comfortable place to rest, relax your spine and let your head hang heavy.
- Shift your weight more toward the balls of your feet, keeping your hips over your ankles. This allows gravity to give traction to the spine.
- Focus on drawing deep belly breaths in and slowly exhaling for 5-10 breaths.
- As you come out of the asana, move slowly, as you have just been inverted for several moments and could feel lightheaded on the way up. To avoid feeling lightheaded, you can bend your knees, place your elbows on your thighs and rest when your torso is halfway toward vertical. After a few breaths, lift all the way up to standing.