Wide Leg Forward Fold

Sanskrit: Prasarita Padottonasana

The Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold stretches your inner legs, hamstrings, calf muscles, the back of your hips and your spine, in particular the lower back bones. It is very good for stretching the backs of the legs and hamstrings with less intensity than the Standing Forward Fold - good for runners and other athetes. There are four variations of this pose (A, B, C and D) all of which are pictured and described in the Variations section below.

Generally speaking, forward folds have a calming effect on the body.

How to get into the pose (Variation A):

  • From Mountain Pose (Tadasana) exhale and take a wide step along the long edge of your mat with your arms at shoulder width apart

  • Both feet should be facing 12 o’clock or drawing slightly in (pigeon toes). No Charlie Chaplin.

  • Bring your hands to your hips, inhale and draw your shoulders back and down whilst lifting up into the chest. Extend the crown of the head and length the tailbone down.

  • Exhale and hinge forward from your hips. All forward folds involve a forward tilt of the pelvis. Remember that your fold always comes from the hips and not the waist.

  • Come to half way (a flat back) first. Bring your hands on the floor with your arms straight.

  • If you feel able to come further into the post, inhale to send the crown of your head forward, then exhale to come deeper into the fold. The crown of your head should lengthen towards the mat and your seat bones should point upwards. You are looking to create length through the spine. Release your neck.

  • Activate your quadriceps (thigh muscles).

  • Straighten your legs as best as you can but always keep your knees soft. Do not lock out the knee joints. If you have hypermobility in your knee joints you should always practice with a micro bend into your knees.

  • As you deepen into the fold, your elbows draw backwards and you can bring your hands in line with your feet.

  • Keep the weight distribution even across the whole of your foot. Try not to put all the weight into your heels.

  • Take deep breaths.

  • As you exhale, draw your abdominal muscles in and up (engage uddiyana bandha).

  • Exit the pose by drawing your hands to the hips on an exhale and then come up on an inhale, keeping the spine long. Do not round the spine as you come up.

Remember to create the balance between effort and ease in your pose.

How long to stay in the pose:

  • Five to ten breaths

Gaze (Drishti)

  • Tip of the nose

Modifications you can take to make this pose more accessible:

  • Bring your hands to blocks to raise the floor.

  • Bend the knees as much as you need to if there is pressure in the lower back or tightness in the hamstrings.

Variations

  • B (picture 4) - Keep your hands on your hips and exhale to draw the upper body down. Your hands stay on your hips. Without the support of the hands, this variation challenges your balance. Inhale to return to standing.

  • C (picture 5) - Interlace your hands behind your back and fold forward on an exhale. Draw your arms up and overhead, in the direction of the floor. Let gravity help your shoulders to open. Inhale to return to standing.

  • D (picture 6) - From hands on hips, exhale to draw the upper body down. Catch your big toes with your peace fingers (index and middle fingers) from the inside. To exit, inhale to look up, exhale, and then inhale again to release the toes and come up.

Contraindications / Cautions

  • Be cautious with this pose if you have problems with your lower back and do this pose with a good bend into the knees.

  • Draw your toes inward if you have sciatica

  • Shorten your step out if you have groin / adductor issues

  • Talk to your teacher if you have disc injuries