Prasarita Padottanasana I - TINT Yoga

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Prasarita Padottanasana I Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold I

    Quick Facts

  • Sanskrit (Original): Prasārita Pādottānāsana I
  • Etymology: Spread out (prasārita); foot (pāda); extended (uttān); pose (āsana); number I
  • Fun Fact about the pose: This Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold I is the first form in a series of four variations of the pose. Depending on the lineage of yoga you will either encounter the name as I, II, III, IV or as A, B, C, D.
  • Asana Type: Forward Fold, Standing
  • Main length muscle groups: Hamstrings, muscles of the spine
  • Main strength muscle groups: Muscles of the feet and ankles, hamstrings, quadriceps, psoas muscle, abdominal muscles
  • Vinyasa Breath: Exhale

How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step

  • 1 To begin with Prasarita Padottanasana I, start in a rather wide stance facing the long side of your yoga mat. Both feet are parallel and the heels turned slightly outwards.
  • 2 From here, root your feet down into the ground and activate the arches of your feet. Pull the muscles upwards as if you were bootstrapping your ankles.
  • 3 Engage your leg muscles by lifting your kneecaps up.
  • 4 You can place your hands on your hips and on an inhale lift your ribcage up and away from the hips and broaden your chest.
  • 5 Keeping the legs firm, lower your torso halfway down on an exhale. In this position with the upper body parallel to the floor, lengthen your spine once more on an inhale and on the next exhale fold over completely into a forward fold.
  • 6 Fully release your neck and the crown of your head down to the floor.
  • 7 Place your hands flat on the floor (or on a block if the floor is too far away). Your hands are positioned right under your shoulders and at least shoulder-width apart.
  • 8 If you have enough range of motion to bend your elbows you can do so. Send the elbows softly backwards through the straddle of your legs.
  • 9 You can gently traction your hands towards the back as if you were trying to move the mat to the back.
  • 10 Stay in the pose for a couple of deep, smooth breaths and then lift yourself out of the pose on an inhale.

Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose

  • Keep the collar bones soft and wide: When working the elbows and hands backwards, a common thing to happen is that the space between the collarbones becomes narrow and tense. Pay special attention to this area and work on softening and broadening the collarbones.
  • Distribute your bodyweight evenly through the feet: Most practitioners will find that most of their weight in Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold I is centered in their heels. This might cause excessive stretching of the hamstrings. To avoid this work on equally distributing your bodyweight into the heel, center, and balls of the feet. At first, this might challenge your balance and you might feel like falling over, but with regular practice you will quickly become accustomed to this new alignment.
  • Relax the neck, head and jaw: In Prasarita Padottanasana I the arches of the feet and the pelvic floor are active. These two areas directly correlate with the dome of the palate, the jaw and head/neck area. Remind yourself to soften and relax the aforementioned body parts to avoid tension from building up.
  • Keep the inner line of the legs engaged: Oftentimes the outer leg line and the outer hips become really engaged. Depending on your overall posture, this can cause your inner leg line to disengage and your ankles collapse inwards and take strain. Practice pulling up the inner line of your leg by imagining an inner seam line which you want to pull up.
  • Safely exit the pose: Lift up on an inhale only and beware to keep your legs and core engaged while you lift up. This will avoid excessive pulling on your pelvic floor.

Adapting The Pose Through Modifications

Simplify

  • Place your hands on blocks or even on a chair if the floor is too far away. Make sure to have your hands flat on the support (or on the floor).
  • If you feel that your lower back is rounding a lot while you are folding forward, bend your knees a little (or even a lot) to connect your belly with your thighs. This will automatically lengthen your lumbar spine.

Level Up

  • When you feel that you can too easily reach the floor or even place your forearms on the ground, make your stance smaller and push your feet together. Alternatively, elevate your feet on blocks as this will take the floor further away from you and give the spine more room to hang.
  • Experiment with the position of the hands and feel the differences. For this, place your palms on the ground and extend the arms back through the legs. You can also have your palms facing skywards in the variation.
  • As every forward fold also includes an element of backbend, you can increase the curve in your lower spine (think ducktail here). To do this, you will have to tilt your pelvis anteriorly (forward), which will also work more on lengthening your hamstrings. Beware to not solely pull your sit bones up, as this might lead to excess strain of the hamstring attachment on the sit bones. Rather focus on distributing an equal amount of stretching over the whole length of the hamstrings, which is from heels to sit bones.
  • Play with transition and make your way into Tripod Headstand from Prasarita Padottanasana I or place the forearms on the ground and find Forearm Stand or Scorpion Pose. Be sure to make the transitions smooth and controlled – no jumping please! The way down is just as important as the way down. Have fun playing!

Benefits of Prasarita Padottanasana I

  • As is common for all forward folds, Prasarita Padottanasana I has a very deep calming and cooling effect, not only for the body but also for the mind. This makes it a great pose when struggling with mental turmoil or when feeling overheated.
  • Prasarita Padottanasana I soothes the brain cells and calms down the heart rate because the whole trunk is basically upside down.
  • The pose is also said to refresh the body and mind and relieve anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and fatigue.
  • By massaging the abdominal organs, Prasarita Padottanasana I can help improve digestion.
    It keeps the spine and the nerves of the spine long and flexible.
  • Prasarita Padottanasana I provides a deep stretch for the hips and the legs, especially the hamstrings and the calves. This is great for people with a shortened backline of the body.
  • The knees and legs build up strength and stability in this pose, as they are the main area of muscle activation. It will especially strengthen your lower waistline.

All of the Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold series is great to work on deepening the fold of the upper body without pulling the torso down. It is a powerful pose for the legs and in my experience can contribute massively to the awareness of the sit bones and the pelvic floor. Next to all these aspects it is also a great stretch that one can practice in between two meetings.

Stephi

Content Creator at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher

FAQ: Common questions about this pose

The answer to this question depends on the energetics of the class that you are practicing and the outcome you want to achieve. In more dynamic classes like in Vinyasa yoga, the Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold is mainly a transition pose. Here, you will work with the principle of one breath, one movement. If you are practicing a therapeutic yoga class or want to spend more time working on the details, the recommendation is to hold the pose around five to ten full breath cycles (one inhale and one exhale equals one full cycle of breath). If you modify the pose to be more restorative (e.g. by using props) you can extend the pose to anything from one to ten minutes.

You can change the classical position of the arms and use your arms as an extra weight to lengthen and release the head and neck. Simply take hold of your opposite elbows or interlace your hands behind your head and let the elbows pull you downwards. Be sure to soften the palate and the jaw if you know that you are holding a lot of tension in the head and neck area. Alternatively you can also place a block (or a chair) below the crown of your head. This support gives you a tactile reference for the orientation of your head on the one hand and on the other hand it will give your head a place to rest, nudging the muscles in the head and neck to release.

There are two things you can do to take your Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold to the next level. The first thing you should check for is the alignment of your lower back. See that it is not rounding otherwise the psoas and the spine have no chance to lengthen. Bend your knees if needed and make sure to tilt your pelvis forwards. The second thing to check is the engagement of your legs and feet. Keep them active throughout the whole duration of the pose. A real game changer is to pull your kneecaps up. Once you have internalized these two steps, see that you distribute your bodyweight evenly throughout the feet and release the spine fully.

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