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How to Practice Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold

How to Practice Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold

What is the wide-legged standing forward bend posture?

An intense forward bend that increases hip flexibility, the wide-legged forward fold is called Prasarita Padottanasana. Sometimes referred to as the ‘half-inverted’ pose, this asana is a great prep for all forward bends. It involves widening the legs and is considered a challenging hip opener. The Sanskrit name of the asana also suggests how it is an intense stretch - Prasarita means outstretched, pada means foot, uttana means intense stretch, and asana, of course, means pose.

The asana stretches the back of the legs, the thighs, hips and inner groin region because of its wide stretch. It is obtained by spreading the legs up to an appropriate distance (depending on one’s height - taller people will have to spread the legs wider). Because it requires a forward bend where the head comes below the heart, it can serve as a substitute and prep for the headstand. Due to this, the asana rejuvenates the brain, providing more oxygen and blood flow. This asana can be practiced both before or after other standing asanas.  

For those with tight hamstrings it might be challenging but with variations and regular practice, it stretches out muscles and helps improve flexibility. For some people, due to the intensity, it could take months or even years to achieve the asana. But that doesn’t mean you don’t practice easier variations or push yourself just that little bit to try to progress to the final posture. 

Posture type: Forward bend 

Position type: Standing 

Ideal for: Hip mobility and Flexibility 

Targets: Lower body 

Pose level: Intermediate 

How can you prepare for the asana 

  1. Hip flexibility: Practicing standing triangle, lunges and simple hip openers like garland pose and pigeon pose regularly can help develop the required hip flexibility. 
  2. Lower back flexibility: With hip flexibility, back flexibility is also important for the asana. Practicing backbends like camel pose, cobra pose, locust pose and forward bending asanas like seated forward fold and standing forward bend and other advanced forward bending asanas are helpful. 
  3. Core and leg strength: Developing strength is also helpful. For this, regular practice of triangle pose, warrior series, boat pose and plank are important. 

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend

How to practice Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend

Getting into the posture

  1. Stand straight in Mountain pose (Tadasana).
  2. Move your feet away from each other. Keep about 3 – 4 feet distance with toes facing forward forming an equilateral triangle with the legs. You can adjust the distance based on your height. Ensure your feet are completely grounded and balanced. 
  3. Hold your waist, breath in, bend back a little, lengthen your spine and as you breath out bend forward from your hips going all the way down.
  4. Keep the feet firmly grounded on the mat, and spine as straight as possible. 
  5. Gently make an effort to place the top of your head on the floor and palms or forearms (whichever is possible and comfortable for you) next to the head on the floor.
  6. Hold and keep breathing.

Getting out of the posture

  1. To come out of the posture, slowly breathe in, lift head up first and take a breath. Now place your hands on the waist and lift up through the spine and trunk region. 
  2. Exhale and release both the arms and relax in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
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Benefits of Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend

The asana improves hip mobility and stability, giving an intense stretch to the hamstrings. It strengthens the leg and back muscles and also provides a stretch because of the lengthening effect. It is beneficial in relieving mild back pain and helps tone the abdominal organs. Due to the increased blood flow to the brain, it has a calming effect and helps release fatigue. 

What are the contraindications of Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend?

One must avoid the asana if there is lower back pain, groin or knee pain. It is also not suitable for anyone with hypertension, high BP and heart conditions. Care must be taken while getting into and out of the asana to avoid added pressure on the spine. 

Counter poses of Wide-Legged Forward Bend 

1. It is always important to practice counter poses after any intense asana. For wide-legged forward bend, the following counter poses can be performed: 

2. Since the head is below the heart in the wide-legged standing forward bend, there is a rush of blood in the opposite direction. So standing still in the tree pose, Mountain pose (Tadasana) can help the body come back to its normal position. 

3. Cross legged or eagle legged backbend pose can also be helpful as it serves as a counter position for the abducted leg position during the wide-legged standing forward bend.  

Wide-legged Standing Forward bend variations

Here are the wide legged forward fold variations that you can practice according to your flexibility level:

Easy variation

  1. Initially, it might be difficult to place the head on the mat. Instead, you can also keep the fingertips on the floor. And once you gain flexibility, you can slowly come lower with time.  
  2. You can also bend the knees a little bit as this will help you reach the mat. 
  3. Adjust the distance between the legs. You can spread the legs a little further, if it’s more comfortable. 
Wide-legged Standing Easy Variation

Advance variation

  1. Keep the hands interlocked behind you. As you bend down, bring the hands away from the body, stretching it upwards. 
  2. You can also attempt the asana by holding the big toes. 

Advice for beginners 

You can make the pose more accessible by using the hands on hips instead of stretching them out or using the hands on a wall or block. In a regular Shvasa yoga class, the teacher would encourage you to engage the legs, arms, spine, shoulder and hips to gain more flexibility. 

Practice tips for the Wide-Legged Forward Bend

  1. Keep the legs straight. Only if hip flexibility is less, you can bend the knees a little bit to help you reach the mat. 
  2. Make sure you bend from the hips and keep the spine straight. Do not let the spine curve. 
  3. Adjust the distance between your feet to make sure you are not imbalanced. 

Shvasa tips

  1. Be gentle. The bend can be intense on the spine and hips so avoid any jerks or sudden movements. If unable to reach the mat, slowly try to go lower over a few days. Do not force yourself to bend more than you can. 
  2. Start with holding the forward fold asana for five breaths and slowly increase the duration as you get more comfortable. 
  3. If it’s taking time don’t get demotivated. Some yogis take years to achieve the right forward fold! Work on hip flexibility and slowly you’ll begin to notice your progression. 
What are the benefits of wide-legged forward bend?
The wide-legged forward bend offers numerous benefits for the body and mind. This pose stretches the hamstrings, inner thighs, and hips, promoting improved flexibility and mobility in these areas. It also strengthens and tones the legs and core, contributing to overall physical stability. The wide-legged forward bend helps relieve tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back, offering relief from stiffness and discomfort.
What is wide legged standing forward fold in Sanskrit?
The Sanskrit term for wide-legged standing forward fold is "Prasarita Padottanasana." "Prasarita" means "spread out" or "expanded," "Pada" means "foot," and "Uttana" means "intense stretch" or "extended." Together, "Prasarita Padottanasana" translates to a pose where the feet are spread wide apart while folding forward.
What muscles does wide legged forward fold stretch?
In short, the wide-legged forward fold, or Prasarita Padottanasana, primarily stretches the hamstrings, adductors (inner thighs), calves, spinal extensors, glutes, hip muscles, and lower back muscles. It also offers a gentle stretch to the muscles of the shoulders, upper back, and neck.
What are the contraindications for wide legged forward fold
The contraindications for the wide-legged forward fold include hamstring or groin injuries, lower back issues, uncontrolled or severe high blood pressure, and eye conditions such as glaucoma or detached retina.

How to Practice Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold
Arunima Singhdeo

Arunima is the Founder & CEO of Shvasa. She was the cofounder and COO of which raised approx $20mn in funding from Accel Partners and Tiger Global, which was later acquired by The Mahindra Group. She was also a Vice President at Infoedge India - a successfully listed Internet company. Arunima is a Master Yoga & Meditation teacher with over 2000 hrs of practice and 1000 hrs of teaching Yoga. Her two passions are yoga and the internet.

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