Your Monthly Yoga Pose
“Where focus goes, energy flows.” – Tony Robbins
The posture of the month is prasarita padottanasana, or wide-legged forward fold. This posture allows you to widen your stance and allow your trunk, torso, and head to be upside down. It provides the benefits of an inversion while allowing both feet to stay on the ground. In essence, this posture is the opposite of the Tony Robbins quote; where blood flows, focus grows!
Prasarita means expanded, spread, or extended. Pada means foot. B.K.S. Iyengar says the pose is one where the expanded legs are stretched intensely. As we roll into September, our flexibility, brain power, and patience seem to be stretched and spread in all directions, and at times, we feel life is upside-down.
Personally, this posture is one of my favorites. I feel an opening in my chest as well as a deep stretch in my legs. In the primary ashtanga series, this posture comes toward the end of the standing series. This is intentional as you want your legs to be warm before coming into this posture.
Prasarita padottanasana has four variations. The legs remain the same, but the arms differ.
- Stand with your legs about three to five feet apart. You want your stance much wider than your shoulders but not too wide that you are unable to balance.
- Turn your feet slightly in and distribute your weight into your heels, pinkie edges of the feet, and balls of your feet. The arches should be lifted.
- As you inhale, open up the chest and bring your hands to your waist. (Clasp hands behind the back for variation C.)
- As you exhale, hinge at the hips. (Arm positioning will be determined by which variation you choose to do.)
- Inhale and half lift so the torso is parallel with the earth, and exhale to deepen into the stretch.
- Keep the weight in the legs.
- Stay in the pose for 30 seconds or five breaths.
- On the sixth inhale, half lift the torso. Pause for exhale.
- Rise to stand as you inhale.
In variation A, the hands are on the ground (or attempting to reach the ground). If your hands reach the ground, work on bringing the fingertips in line with your toes. If that is accessible, flatten out your spine and create 90-degree angles with your elbows.
In variation B, keep the hands on the waist and guide the elbows toward the back as if you had a beach ball to hold between the elbows. Allow the head to hang freely.
In variation C, clasp the hands at your lower back and allow the arms to fall away from the legs as you hinge forward.
In variation D, hold on to your big toe with your pointer and middle finger. Allow your elbows to come out toward the pinkie toes and release the shoulders up to the back. Gently guide your torso forward while holding on to the toes.
Photos by Mike Foote