This wide-legged forward fold is an amazing stretch for your hamstrings and adductor (AKA inner thigh) muscles. It’s also a great way to get your heart over your head if you’re not ready for inversions like headstand or handstand just yet. In the ashtanga method, this is practiced (in all 4 variations seen in the gallery above–A, B, C, D) for 5 breaths each, a total of 20 breaths. Your hamstrings will thank you. Here is your guide to Prasarita Padottanasana:
- Step your feet wide apart and parallel to each other. Firm your outer ankles in slightly. The foundation of your legs stay the same throughout all variations,–A, B, C, D–the legs are extremely strong as you contract the quadriceps and lift the knee caps.
- Before you fold, make sure that your sitting bones remain level and the arches of your feet are slightly lifting (strong legs!).
- For each variation, you will bring your arms into position and inhale, then exhale fold over from your hips. Keep your back as flat and extended as you possibly can. The goal is to create length, not to get your head to the mat.
- Variation A is your palms on the mat, shoulder distance and parallel either between or slightly behind your feet. Variation B keeps your hands at your hips–this is more work for the back of your legs and core because you don’t have an external lever to bring you down as in A. Variation C clasps your palms behind your back and reaches your arms overhead to create a great stretch in your shoulder girdle. Variation D creates another external lever to help you as in A, with your middle finger, index finger and thumb clasping your big toe (as seen in the close-up photo) as your elbows draw to the sides and shoulders stay rolling down the back towards the sacrum.
- Stay in each variation for 5 breaths and remember to inhale as you lengthen and exhale as you fold deeper.