Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana
If I’m in a bind, pun intended, and am craving the grounding earth energy combined with an uplifting tilt to the eithers, my “go to” posture is wide-legged forward bend.
Personally, I enjoy experiencing the full series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Standing Series called Prasarita Padottanasana A, B, C, and D. The pose requires one to exert a perfect balance of effort and relaxation. There are two opposing forces at play woking themselves out in each variation. The crown of the head is pulling downward as the tailbone rises up. For some reason, my breath is nice and ripe by the time I get to this pose in the sequence. My bandhas begin to activate, tapas build a steady flame, and my whole body works; simultaneously I feel an intense release. The tension in my spine is able to release and I can focus only on the ujjayi breath here, extending, lengthening, descending, and pulling back upwards.
Sthira Sukham Asanam
Sthira Sukham Asanam which means “Steady and Sweet,” effort without tension and dullness is what I feel at this point in the Vinyasa practice. In fact, Yoga Journal reads this pose was designed to reduce tension and stiffness in the muscles. There are many energetic layers beneath the superficial layer of the body that this pose serves to activate.
The history of the name of the asana derives from Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, Prasarita means to spread out, pada means foot, uttana means intense stretch. The combined meaning is “feet spread apart intense stretch posture.” In the past, prasarita padottanasana was used in the Ashtanga primary series sequence. The series of four was sequenced between (before) parivritta parsvakonasana and parsvottanasana. Currently, in the yoga flow practice, the pose is incorporated and inserted at different points. In flow yoga, the pose may be placed in the sequence several times and only one variation may be used, usually, A or C, become part of the flow.
To practice the Prasarita series at home:
- Inhale jump or step a quarter turn to your right. The feet should be the same distance apart as in the previous posture in the Ashtanga sequence, or one of your legs distance apart, with outer edges of the feet parallel, and pigeon toe the feet.
- Exhale lower your hands to your waist.
- Inhale, lift your chest. Open the heart and gaze upward.
- Exhale fold forward, hands to the floor between the feet with active legs.
- Inhale as you lengthen the spine and gaze at the horizon
- Exhale fold into the posture at the appropriate level: A, B, C, or D and remain in the posture for 5-8 cycle of ujjayi breath.
- Inhale lengthen the spine and gaze at the horizon
- Exhale bring your hands to your waist with a flat back and rise all the way to standing
Grounding and Cooling
Anatomically, other benefits of this pose are it opens up the hips and chest, increases circulation in the upper part of the body, helps with improving digestion, and stretching leg and thigh muscles. Energetically, it affects the practitioner by inviting more sattvic energy in.
As I mentioned earlier, this is one of my favorite asanas and I feel completely balanced here, in a state of equanimity. This may be because the lower body feels strong and earthy, while the upper body feels spacious, open, and tranquil. The practitioner moves the nervous energy created by the Vata dosha downwards, and clears congestion from external and internal stimuli, transmuting stress into subtle strength. This transformative practice only takes 15 minutes at most. Your neck and back may feel relief from being on their smartphone or laptop during the day. Since the hamstrings and calves are also stretched, different muscles may be supporting you throughout the rest of the day. While you may be feel uplifted and an elimination of stress, this posture will be sure to plant your feet in the earth, while extending the heart energy upwards.
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