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The Prasarita Padottanasana Yoga Pose E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar   
prasarita_padottanasana_yoga_posePrasarita Padottanasana, prounounced pra-sa-REE-tah pah-doh-tahn-AHS-anna, is a wide legged forward bend ashtanga yoga pose. The name is derived from:
  • prasarita = stretched out, expanded, spread, with outstretched limbs
  • pada = foot
  • ut = intense
  • tan = to stretch or extend (compare the Latin verb tendere, "to stretch or extend")

Prasarita Padottanasana Technique

  • Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), facing one of the long edges of your sticky mat, then step or lightly hop your feet apart anywhere from 3 to 4 1/2 feet (depending on your height: taller people should step wider). Rest your hands on your hips. Make sure your inner feet are parallel to each other. Lift your inner arches by drawing up on the inner ankles, and press the outer edges of your feet and ball of the big toe firmly into the floor. Engage the thigh muscles by drawing them up. Inhale and lift your chest, making the front torso slightly longer than the back.

    Exhale and, maintaining the length of the front torso, lean the torso forward from the hip joints. As your torso approaches parallel to the floor, press your fingertips onto the floor directly below your shoulders. Extend your elbows fully. Your legs and arms then should be perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other. Move your spine evenly into the back torso so that your back is slightly concave from the tailbone to the base of the skull. Bring your head up, keeping the back of the neck long, and direct your gaze upward toward the ceiling.

    Push your top thighs straight back to help lengthen the front torso, and draw the inner groins away from each other to widen the base of your pelvis. Take a few breaths. As you maintain the concavity of your back and the forward lift of your sternum, walk your fingertips between your feet. Take a few more breaths and then, with an exhalation, bend your elbows and lower your torso and head into a full forward bend. Make sure as you move down that you keep your front torso as long as possible. If possible rest the crown of your head on the floor.

    Press your inner palms actively into the floor, fingers pointing forward. If you have the flexibility to move your torso into a full forward bend, walk your hands back until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms parallel. Be sure to keep your arms parallel to each other and widen the shoulder blades across the back. Draw your shoulders away from your ears.

    Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. To come out, bring your hands back on the floor below your shoulders and lift and lengthen your front torso. Then with an inhalation, rest your hands on your hips, pull your tail bone down toward the floor, and swing the torso up. Walk or hop your feet back into Tadasana.

Prasarita Padottanasana Tips

  • Use a block, bolster or other prop that will support your hands and head if your head doesn't yet reach the floor. Over time, as you progress in the pose, work with lower props until eventually your head reaches the floor without needing a higher support. 
  • Regardless of how deeply you can go into the pose it is important to keep straight active legs with lifted kneecaps and a flat back
  • Go easy on those hamstrings as the pose will not give you the calming benefits if you overdo the stretching in the back of the legs.
  • Go slowly with your hamstrings in this posture and if they hurt too much, don't go any further.
  • Be careful as you extend your spine.
  • If you have lower-back problems, don't go too deeply in the pose but rest your head and arms on a chair seat to make it easier on your back.
  • Come out of the pose slowly particularly if you have low blood pressure.
  • Be careful not to tilt the head or compress the neck if you put it on the floor.
  • Don't hyperextend the knees so that they go backward. Lift the kneecaps for protection

Prasarita Padottanasana Variations

There are variations in how this pose is done, mostly having to do with how the arms are placed.

Prasarita Padottanasana II is a more challenging variation with the hands in reverse Namaste, "prayer position", behind the back.

Therapeutic Applications of Prasarita Padottanasana

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Mild depression

Benefits of Prasarita Padottanasana

Prasarita Padottanasana has many health benefits, including but not limited to:
  • Stretches your hamstrings
  • Tones your legs
  • Tones your abdominal muscles
  • Strengthens and stretches the inner and back (hamstrings)
  • Strengthens the spine
  • Strengthens the knee joints
  • Relieves mild backache
  • Calms the brain
  • Alleviates anxiety and frayed nerves
  • Calming to sympathetic nervous system and brain
  • Helps with mild depression
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Opens hip joints
  • Strengthens knees joints
  • Helps digestion by calming stomach
  • Regulates menstrual flow (women only)

Contraindications and Cautions

  • Lower-back problems: Avoid the full forward bend

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