A standing pose for beginners, the Wide Legged Forward Bend Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana) includes an inversion and a forward stretch. The strengthening of the leg muscles is one of the many advantages of practicing Prasarita Padottanasana. This occurs due to the intense stretch the leg muscles receive in Prasarita Padottanasana, where the feet are extended and spread widely apart.
The practitioner strikes this position with their hands on the floor and elbows bent. The student tries to touch their head to the floor with each exhalation. According to their height, the student positions their feet about 2 to 3 feet apart. The student hangs their head and bends the upper body forward at the hips.
Steps for Prasarita Padottanasana:
- Step your feet as far apart and parallel to the ground as you feel comfortable starting in Tadasana. You’re seeking a sense of security and rootedness.
- By pulling the inner ankles up, you can raise your inner arches. Set your big toes and the outer edges of your feet firmly on the ground. Draw your thighs up to your sides. Your hands should be on your hips.
- As you breathe in, lengthen your spine and expand your chest.
- As you exhale, bend forward at the hips while maintaining a long back and an open chest.
- Place your hands on the floor or blocks as you descend halfway while maintaining a straight back. Let out a few breaths now.
- Keep your hands underneath your elbows, pointing back, forearms perpendicular to the floor, and upper arms parallel to the floor as you fold deeper from the hips if you feel like you can without rounding your back.
- Release your head down when you are in a full forward bend. Lean forward and place your crown of the head on the ground with a long neck. You can hold this position for five to ten breaths.
- As you inhale, walk your hands forward to place them under your shoulders to exit the pose while maintaining a long spine and straight arms. As you exhale, put your hands on your hips, and as you inhale, straighten your back and stand up. Back into the Mountain position, shuffle your feet.
Benefits of the Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose:
- Stretches, Strengthens and Lengthens: Spreading your feet wide apart while doing an intense leg stretch will help you build stronger, more flexible muscles. Using the calf muscles and the ankles flexing, Prasarita Padottanasana helps keep the feet stable and grounded on the floor. The strength of the foot and the calf muscles are closely related. Toned calf muscles provide better foot support, and firm foot placement helps stretch the calf muscles and increase flexibility.
- Flexibility and Range of Motion: In this pose, all of the body’s muscles, including those in the shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, back, and legs, stretch, enhancing flexibility. The secondary stretch occurs at the spine, but the primary stretch is at the legs. There are substantial stretches of the inner leg tissues. The lengthened spine leaves the vertebrae with a stable gap. The body’s flexibility is enhanced as a result.
- Chest, Diaphragm, and Breath: The head is positioned below the heart in this inverted yoga pose. Deoxygenated blood is helped to return to the heart through your veins by defying gravity. The venous system needs to work less hard to return blood to the heart. By boosting the body’s Arterio-Venous Arcade’s effectiveness, this pose helps to calm the heart. The expanded venous capacity relaxes the heart, and the upper body stretch causes the back of the lungs to enlarge.
- Awareness and Concentration: Without awareness, breathing in this forward bend with the chest and abdomen compressed can be difficult. So, stretching while paying attention to one’s breath makes the practice more approachable. A calculated move is made to align the hips, the foot, and the space between the feet in the pose. Focus and body awareness are necessary for this alignment. Before flowing into the pose, the practitioner must assess the body’s tightness and height. Any jerk can hurt someone. Therefore, concentration and awareness are enhanced by conscious knowledge of the body’s alignment-dependent capacity.
- Alignment and Posture: Good body alignment is produced by solid legs, a strong core, flexible knee joints, and a flexible lower body and pelvis. This pose relieves stiffness in the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. Additionally, this pose involves some balancing. The student deliberately positions themselves in front of the stretch to experience it. It improves balance and posture in the body.
- Energizing, de-stressing, and relaxing: As seen in Prasarita Padottanasana, a forward bend is good for the head, bringing in a fresh blood supply. It, therefore, helps in reducing stress around the neck and shoulders. A good flow of prana helps to reduce fatigue in the body and muscles. Hence, as this practice is very beneficial, it can be done while supporting the head with yoga blocks.
- Stimulation and Organs: Prasarita Padottanasana is a forward bend standing posture that puts pressure on the abdominal muscles, giving the internal organs a gentle massage and stimulating them. Thus, toning the organs in the abdominal area by tightening the abdominal muscles is seen.
- Therapeutic, Healing, and Ailments: This technique can treat mild sciatica, Piriformis syndrome, varicose veins, and back pain. This pose can treat nasal tract conditions like sinusitis and allergies. The inversions function as a natural sinus-flushing mechanism.
- Balance and Emotions: All yoga poses that involve wide-spaced feet to create a stretch are typically beneficial for opening the three lower chakras in the body. Prasarita Padottanasana opens and harmonizes the Solar Plexus, Sacral Chakra, and Root (Muladhara) Chakra (Manipura Chakra). These chakras are crucial because they promote self-control, acceptance, self-assurance, and stability.
- Circulation and Systems: This pose greatly benefits the digestive, lymphatic, and circulatory systems.
- Others: This position is excellent for athletes and runners because it provides the most sustained hamstring stretch, which eases muscle tension and makes it possible to run smoothly without shocking the legs.
- Preparatory Pose: This forward bend position, also known as an inversion, is often used as a warm-up for inversion poses like Sirsasana (Headstand) and other similar positions. It prepares the body to withstand pressure on the head and neck during inversions.
Contraindications of the Wide-Legged Forward Bend Pose:
- Injury and Surgery: This pose should be avoided by students who have sprained their necks or shoulders, ankles, wrists, or knees. Avoid this pose if you recently had surgery on your knees, hips, ankles, or wrists.
- Lack of Body-Breath Connections: Before attempting the pose, the student must be aware of their breath, distance, and hamstring flexibility. After exhaling, the student should stretch forward from the hips. Students who haven’t coordinated enough risk harming their knees and hips, and the hamstring muscle may be torn.
- Body Weakness and Physical Strength: People with tight hamstrings, flimsy ankles, and weak knees should avoid this pose. Anyone with high blood pressure, vertigo, or migraine should avoid this pose because there is a blood rush to the brain. Due to the deep lengthening of the spine, people with spinal conditions like herniated discs, advanced cervical- and lumbar-spondylosis, scoliosis, and kyphosis should avoid this pose. Such intense inversions should be avoided by people who have had heart surgery.
- Others: Seniors and pregnant women should avoid this pose because of the required spinal stretching and balancing. Intense Leg Stretch Pose Variation Blocks (Prasarita Padottanasana Variation Blocks) and Wide Legged Forward Bend Pose Head On Block (Prasarita Padottanasana Head On Block) are two options for beginners and students with tight hamstrings.