Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold is a calming forward bend that stretches the hamstrings and back. There are several arm variations and other modifications available, making this a suitable pose for yoga students of all levels!
This pose is also sometimes called "Straddle Fold," "Standing Straddle," and "Wide-Legged Forward Bend," among other variations. However, its Sanskrit name — "Prasarita Padottanasana" (prah-suh-REE-tuh pah-doh-tahn-AHS-uh-nuh) — comes from five words:
- "Prasarita" — meaning "spread" or "expanded"
- "Pada" — meaning "foot" or "leg"
- "Ut" — meaning "intense"
- "Tan" — meaning "to stretch"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
This literally translates to "Feet Spread Intense Stretch Pose." Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana can feel expansive and soothing after a long set of standing poses, or after running, walking, or cycling. Often sequenced near the end of the standing poses in a yoga class, it is a good preparatory pose for inversions, such as Headstand (Sirsasana), Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), and Peacock Pose (Pincha Mayruasana). Keep reading to find the variation of this pose that is best for your practice!
Benefits of Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold
Prasarita Padottanasana stretches and strengthens the hamstrings, calves, hips, low back, and spine. The various arm positions stretch your shoulders, wrists, forearms, and upper back. This pose has all of the benefits of both forward folds and inversions, including:
- A calmed mind
- Relief from stress, anxiety, and mild depression
- Relief from mild backaches
- Opened hips
- Relief from neck and shoulder tension
- Toned abdominal organs
- Improved digestion
This pose also quiets and soothes the nervous system. Additionally, it helps prepare the body and mind for deeper yoga poses and introspection.
Yoga is like coming home… That searching that you’re doing, to make yourself happy, to find a thing that will make you happy, is already within you.
Those with back injuries should not fold completely forward, but should practice a modified version of the pose (see Modifications & Variations, below). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Bring your hands to your hips. Turn to the left and step your feet wide apart. Turn your toes slightly in and your heels slightly out so the edges of your feet are parallel to the edges of your mat. Align your heels.
- Inhale and lengthen your torso, reaching the crown of your head up toward the ceiling. Exhaling, fold forward at the hips. Keep the front of your torso long. Drop your head and gaze softly behind you.
- Bring your hands to rest on the floor between your legs. Keep your elbows bent and pointing behind you. If your hands do not come to the floor, rest them on yoga blocks.
- Shift your weight slightly forward onto the balls of your feet.
- Keep your hips aligned with your ankles, then walk your hands back even further. Work toward bringing your fingers in line with your toes (and eventually with your heels), and bringing your elbows directly above your wrists.
- Strongly engage your quadriceps and draw them up toward the ceiling.
- Lengthen your spine on your inhalations and fold deeper on your exhalations.
- Bring the crown of your head down further, resting it on the floor if possible.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, bring your hands to your hips. Press firmly through your feet and inhale to lift your torso with a flat back. Step your feet together and return to Mountain Pose.
Modifications & Variations
Prasarita Padottanasana is a soothing stretch that releases the whole back side of your body when practiced correctly. Be sure to take it slowly and never force the pose. Try these changes to find a variation of the pose that works for you:
- If your hands don't easily reach the floor, place each hand on a yoga block.
- If your head comes easily to the floor, narrow your stance.
- If your hamstrings are very tight, bend your knees.
- For a restorative version of the pose, rest your head on a yoga block or bolster.
- Advanced practitioners may come directly into Tripod Headstand (Sirsasana) from this pose.
There are several arm variations for this pose. The instructions listed above are for Prasarita Padottanasana A. Other traditional variations include:
- Prasarita Padottanasana B: From your standing pose in step 1, keep both hands on your hips and point your elbows directly behind your body. Then, come into the fold.
- Prasarita Padottanasana C: From standing, reach your arms behind your body and interlace your fingers. Come into the fold and extend your knuckles overhead. More advanced students may bring their knuckles all the way overhead to rest on the floor.
- Prasarita Padottanasana C variation: From standing, reach your arms behind your body and clasp your elbows. Then, come into the fold.
- Prasarita Padottanasana D: Come into Prasarita Padottanasana A. Then, extend your arms to the side and clasp your big toes between your first two fingers and thumbs. With your arms out to the side, bend your elbows over your wrists.
Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana and all of its variations can be a calming way to end your standing sequence. It can also be used to prepare your body for inversions and meditation. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Keep your legs strong and engaged.
- Do not lock your knees.
- Lift and spread your sit bones.
- Keep your face and your gaze soft.
- Emphasize lengthening the front of your torso rather than focusing only on bringing your head and hands all the way down. Bend your knees, or place your hands on blocks, to keep this length as you fold forward.
- Fold from the hips, not the waist. To learn this movement, place and press your hands directly on your front hip bones. Then hinge forward from that spot. Keep your torso long.
- Come up from the pose with a flat back. This will help strengthen the back muscles.
- Aim for aligning your ankles, knees, and hips. It’s common to lean back, placing too much weight on the heels.
Fold & Release
Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana on a regular basis can keep your hamstrings and low back flexible, and your mind calm and serene. The more you are able to relax in the pose, the more your body will be able to release tension, stress, and stiffness. Resisting the pose will only cause your body to tighten up. Breathe deeply and let go. As you relax in the pose — and in the moment — you will be able to find ease, softness, and serenity.