Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Focus Pose -Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Stance Forward Fold)

Next up in our sequence are the wide stance forward folds. There are four of them known respectively as A, B, C, and D. The first and the last are done with hands on the floor or fingers grasping the big toe. The middle two are shoulder openers.

So what are we working on here? We are stretching hamstrings, the inner legs and the spine, which translates into the back and shoulders. And by moving in and out of these, we are strengthening the abdominal muscles and the lower back. I love the wide stance forward folds because they feel great on my back.

One of the most common complaints I hear about this set of 4 folds, is people feel lightheaded coming back up. This is not uncommon, and I still experience it. It could be due to low blood pressure, holding the breath, an inner ear imbalance, or something else. If this happens on a regular basis, make a point of following the breath and take extra time and breaths to move into and out of the pose.

As with all the poses I have been breaking down, there are variations in the Ashtanga sequence between the Traditional Form as taught by Pattabhi Jois and Manju Joia and the Contemporary Form as led by David Swenson and Beryl Bender Birch. Again, I am following a contemporary Ashtanga.

I thought about breaking these down individually, but since they are done sequentially, I decided to move through all four at once. I only have a picture for A right now (from yogajournal.com), but it should give you a good feel for what the rest are.

So let's begin. We have just finished Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle pose) and are at the front of our mats:

Prasarita Padottanasana A
From Samasthti at the front of our mats, on and INHALE walk or jump open about 3 feet wide or the distance of one of your legs. Feet should be parallel to eachother or slightly pigeon toed.

EXHALE hands to waist.

INHALE - Optional small backbend. (Some teachers practice this, others omit it. All depends on when, where, and from whom you learned the sequence.)

EXHALE swan dive forward, leading with the heart or throat center. Bring palms to the floor, fingers pointing straight ahead.

INHALE - look up. Lengthen the spine.

EXHALE - forward fold.




**Now a Level 1 - may just stay with hands at the waist, torso parallel to the floor. You may be here if you have exceptionally tight hamstrings or lower back issues.

**A Level 2 may work with hands on the floor, right under the shoulders.

**IN ALL LEVELS, a slight bend in the knees is accepted and encouraged - Especially if you know you hyperextend.

**IF YOUR HEAD HITS THE FLOOR - walk your feet in until your crown just floats off the surface. This will allow your spine to continue to lengthen.

REMAIN FOR 5 BREATHS. DRISTHI = nose or spot behind you.

ALL LEVELS - INHALE LOOK UP.

EXHALE - hands to waist. Take an extra breath here if you know you get light headed. ENGAGE THE LOWER ABDOMEN TO SUPPORT YOUR LOWER BACK!

INHALE - bring yourself to standing.

EXHALE - pause.

INHALE - extend arms wide to the sides.

Prasarita Padottanasana B

EXHALE - hands to the waist. ROTATE THE ELBOWS to face the back of the room, one thumb on each side of the sacrum or spine.

INHALE -(optional backbend).

EXHALE - swan dive forward, leading with the heart or throat center. Elbows continue to move toward the ceiling as the crown of the head moves toward the side of the room (level 1) or toward the floor (level 2).

REMAIN FOR 5 BREATHS. DRISTHI = nose or spot behind you.

ALL LEVELS - INHALE, bring yourself to standing.
ENGAGE THE LOWER ABDOMEN TO SUPPORT YOUR LOWER BACK!

EXHALE - pause.

Prasarita Padottanasana C

INHALE - extend arms wide to the sides.

EXHALE - interlace fingers behind the back. Squeeze the shoulder blades together as you...

INHALE (optional backbend).

EXHALE - swan dive forward, leading with the heart or throat center. Let the arms float of the lower back as they will. Go ahead and wiggle the shoulders a bit to encourage them to open just a bit more.

REMAIN FOR 5 BREATHS. DRISTHI = nose or spot behind you.

ALL LEVELS - INHALE, bring yourself to standing.
ENGAGE THE LOWER ABDOMEN TO SUPPORT YOUR LOWER BACK!

EXHALE - pause. Bring hands to waist.

Prasarita Padottanasana D

INHALE (optional backbend).

EXHALE - swan dive forward, leading with the heart or throat center. As you come down, Level 1, keep hands at waist; level 2 grab your calves; level 3 with two fingers, grab your big toes.

(Picture from yogabasics.com)

INHALE - look up.

EXHALE - crown of the head lengthens as you forward fold.

REMAIN FOR 5 BREATHS. DRISTHI = nose or spot behind you.

ALL LEVELS - INHALE, come up half way,

EXHALE - hands to waist. Take an extra breath here if you know you get light headed. ENGAGE THE LOWER ABDOMEN TO SUPPORT YOUR LOWER BACK!

INHALE - bring yourself to standing.

EXHALE - pause.

INHALE - extend arms wide to the sides.

EXHALE - Samasthti at the front of your mat.



Again, there are nuance differences between different teachers. In fact, I don't think I've ever practiced this the same way in any workshop. The key is to honor that instructors style and to follow your breath.

Namaste!

4 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

This is fantastic- especially since I do yoga at home and forward bends are difficult but necessary for me. No more excuses to avoid them! :)
I just have a question- I have a teacher who instructed us to widen our stance until our ankles were beneath our wrists and then do the forward bend sequence- at that stance I could just barely touch my head to the floor. But other teachers have described it as you just have here.
Are they different postures? or should I focus on a smaller stance to get more of a hamstring stretch?
Blessing :)
Lisa

Kristin said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your feedback!

Regarding your question, it sounds like it is the same pose being taught differently. The wider stance might not be appropriate for everyone - for example, I have noticed guys have a hard time with a wide stance, and our arm:leg length ratio is not always equal.

My thoughts are, if a person can easily touch thier head to the floor: bring the feet closer together to raise the crown off the floor an inch or two to allow the spine to continue to legthen.

If the head isn't quite touching - but almost! - continue to work there, growing the crown of the head to the floor.

And if someone is still working on the fold, to work with hands at waist (knees or calves) and stay mostly parallel to the floor or only fold a little bit.

For me, it's not about whether someone can touch thier head to the floor, but are they keeping the shoulders moving away from the ears, shoulder blades moving toward the waist to facilitate opening across the chest, and the breath strong and flowing.

In all variations, the hamstrings are getting a great stretch, what's changing slightly is the inner/outer thigh stretch, calves and the intensity on the lower back.

I hope that helps! :)

Eco Yogini said...

That does help!! :) Thank you very much- will definitely be keeping my stance shorter- i know my hamstrings are tight- so i'm probably rounding my back and going for the "wrong" goal of touching my head to the floor- instead of lengthening my spine :)

shinyyoga said...

Ohhhh straddles - we did so many of these at my training recently, and stayed in them for what felt like 10 mins (must have been 5 mins).. very strong and grounding! x