Asana of the Week: Prasarita Padottanasana

This wide-legged forward bend is one of my favorite standing postures.  It stretches the hamstrings, opens the hips, and activates the inner thighs while releasing the neck and spine.  The effect on the upper body varies with the position of the arms, of which there are many.  Not shown is a variation I like with the hands in reverse prayer which, in this progression, would fit best after C and before D to further open the shoulders if necessary.

While Prasarita Padottanasana is straightforward enough, one question many face is how far apart to set the feet.  The distance between the feet is primarily dependent upon two characteristics specific to the individual practitioner: flexibility and height.  If the hamstrings are so long and/or the stance is so wide that the crown of the head reaches the floor, then the feet should be brought closer together.  If the head is nowhere near the floor because of tight hamstrings, step the feet an inch or two further apart to take some of the stretch out of the back of the legs.  

Mindfully lift through the arches of the feet and the adductors of the inner thighs as you hold your weight squarely on all four corners of both feet.  Be sure that the outer edges of the feet are parallel to the short edges of your mat and keep the quadriceps working to lift the knee caps.  Let the muscles at the base of the neck be soft, using the spinal extensors, bandhas, and sides to progressively bring the crown a little closer to the floor with every breath.  If a connection is made with the hands to the floor or part of the body, as in positions A and D, use the arms to deepen the posture and keep the energy circulating.  


  1. Thanks for the tip on distance between the feet. I have wondered about that. I hope you are enjoying your time with your family. Love the yoga in front of the roaring fire!!

  2. Hi Dottie! Hahaha, the fire is the only place in this house that I'm not completely paralyzed by the cold.

  3. Hi, do you have any suggestions for the arm postion in C. I've been having a difficult time getting my shoulders to open up in this one. Is it just time and patience? On a good day I can barely get my arms perpendicular to the floor. How important is having straight elbows? Is it important for the palms of the hand to be pushing together for beginners? I've started reading Gregor Maehle's book where he talks about opposing muscle groups that one should contract to invite opening in the muscle your trying to lengthen. Is there any application of that for this arm position? Thanks.

  4. I really like this posture as well, especially since my head is visibly getting closer to the ground! :)

    I think the best advice I was given and which has made it more enjoyable (though also more challenging) for me, is to remember the internal rotation of the femurs, and to lift one's sitbones up.

    Also, I second Dottie about the fireplace!

  5. Jeremy - It took me a few years to open up at all in C. It is not important to have the palms touching. In fact, I'd recommend you start with the fingers interlaced and the palms apart to give you the extra space you need. Only straighten the elbows if that's comfortable. If not, keep them slightly bent. There is absolutely application for Maehle's active release technique here. Try to combine that technique with the breath by reaching on the inhales and softening on the exhales.

    Bjjandyoga - Excellent advice! Lifting and spreading the sitbones here makes all the difference.