Spreadlegged forward bend Upavishta konasana

The spread-legged forward bend stretches the backs and insides of the legs (hamstrings and adductors) and increases the flexibility of the spine and hip joints. It improves circulation to the entire pelvic region, tones the abdomen, and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Note, though, that muscle density may make this posture difficult for most men. If you want to give it a try, check out the following steps:

1. Sit on the floor, with your legs straight and spread wide apart (but not more than 90 degrees).

Because this posture is challenging, give yourself an advantage by pulling the flesh of the buttocks (you may know them as "cheeks") out from under the sits bones (the bones directly under that flesh; they're also known as the ischial tuberosities) and bending your knees slightly. Alternatively, sit on some folded blankets.

2. As you inhale, raise your arms forward and up overhead until they're beside your ears.

Keep your elbows soft and your legs slightly bent in Forgiving Limbs, as we describe in Chapter 3. Bring your back up nice and tall (see Figure 11-13a).

Figure 11-13:

The spread-legged forward bend.

3. As you exhale, bend forward from the hips and bring your hands, chest, and head toward the floor.

Rest your extended arms and hands palms down on the floor. If you have the flexibility, place your forehead on the floor as well as shown in Figure 11-13b.

4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 three times and then stay in Step 3 (the folded position) for 6 to 8 breaths.

Note: In the classic posture, the legs are straight with the toes vertical, the chin and chest are on the floor, and the arms are extended forward with the palms joined.

The spread-legged forward bend is also called the lifetime posture because it can take a whole lifetime to master. But don't worry if you don't quite reach mastery. According to Yoga's outlook, if you don't master the pose in this lifetime, you can try again in the next lifetime.

The Sanskrit term upavishta (pronounced oopah-vish-tah) means "seated" and kona (pronounced koh-nah) means "angle."

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