Accessible to almost anyone, Prasarita Padottanasana, is a favorite for lengthening the legs, working the abdominal muscles and engaging the bandhas.
While it’s contraindicated for anyone with chronic back issues, if you have sore back muscles from overexertion, it’s a wonderfully opening and relaxing pose. It’s also great for migraines and headaches!
Ok, let’s get to it!
There are NUMEROUS variations and modifications to this pose.
One of the main things to remember is to hinge forward from the hips (where the femur inserts into the hip socket) not the low back and keep the spine long.
Most likely, if you are practicing this pose for the first time or haven’t practiced much, the crown of the head won’t come to the floor. That’s perfectly normal and fine! You can get all the same wonderful benefits from using one of the modification listed below.
To get into the pose:
- From the front of your mat, step one of your feet back and turn toes slightly inward facing the side of your mat. If you have long legs, take a wide stance.
- Press into the outer edges of the feet and lift the inner arches of the feet but remember to stay anchored into all four corners of your feet, especially the ball mound.
- Bring hands to hips and draw the shoulder blades back and downward. I like to tell people to “puff up your chest,” and begin to fold forward sending sits bones back and keeping the spine long. You can bend the knees if needed! In fact, soft knees may be very helpful in getting into and accessing the deep core line of the body which you need in order to deepen into the pose organically.
- Only fold forward as far as your body says to go. So…if that only brings your torso parallel to the floor or even higher, that’s your place to be.
- Place your hands on the seat of a chair, on two blocks, on the mat or even reach through the legs as shown above if crown of the head comes to the mat.
- Make sure the weight is located more in the ball mound of the foot and less in the heal but not so far forward you’ll end up in a forward roll.
- Now, wherever the hands are, keep them there but push away and lengthen your spine (from the tailbone out the crown of the head). Lift the pelvic floor muscles and pull navel toward spine to engage mula bandha and uddiyana bandha. Then fold forward as much as is good for your body.
- From the forward folded position, keep sliding the shoulder blades toward the sits bones to keep a long neck.
- Breathe here 5 long inhales and 5 long exhales.
To release the pose safely:
- Inhale your hands back to your hips and drop the tailbone downward while bending the knees slightly if legs are straight.
- Keeping knees bent, roll up slowly pulling navel to spine and eventually stacking the vertebrae and bringing shoulders back over the hips.
- Turn toes toward the front of the mat and step the back foot forward so both feet are parallel to one another at the front of the mat.
Now…for those modifications…
You can place hands on blocks (stacked if needed), on the seat of a chair, the back of a chair for support if the crown of the head doesn’t come to the mat.
You can also just keep hands and hips and work a long spine and belly muscles. If you take this variation, be sure to keep shoulder blades moving in toward one another and sliding down your back toward sits bones.
Take bent knees! This is important for keeping the stretch in the belly of the muscles in the back of the legs (hamstrings) rather than jeopardizing those muscle connectors (tendons & ligaments).
If the crown of the head comes to the floor…
- you can walk the hands back to allow for a stretch in the upper back
- bring hands to big toes taking yogi toe grip (first two fingers wrapped around the big toe from inside out)
- place the palms down and walk them back in line with legs with fingers forward (in this position, you’d be making a triangle with palms being the bottom two corners of the triangle and the crown of the head being the top of the triangle)
- you can even drop the forearms down and see how that changes things in your body
There are literally variations within the variations/modifications of this pose. So, have fun with it!
This is not a pose for you if you have chronic back issues/conditions. Or if you have any back issues, be sure you are practicing this pose with someone who knows your issues and the pose well enough to help you move safely.
As always, I want to hear how your practice is going! Leave a comment below and share!
Doggy photobomb…don’t forget, yoga is fun! Remember to smile and enjoy your practice.