Prasarita Padottanasana

(Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Prasarita Padottanasana combines a forward bend and an inversion, which centers the mind and gently opens the hamstrings as well as many muscles deep inside the hips. As you do the pose, focus on engaging your legs strongly, which will help you ground the backs of the legs in Marichyas-ana I. The arms in this specific variation replicate the action and position of the arms in Marichyasana I,

Stand sideways on your mat with your feet about four feet apart and parallel to each other. Draw the muscles of your legs to the bones and up toward your hips. Interlace your fingers behind you and straighten your elbows. Lift and open your chest from the power of your arms and legs. Release forward from your hip joints, moving the crown of your head to or toward the ground. If your head doesn't touch the floor, rest it on a block at whatever height you need to. Supporting the head helps calm the nervous system.

Continue to reach your arms toward the floor behind you without straining your shoulders. If this pose is very difficult, you can bend your knees slightly and fold deeper from your hips, resting your hands on your back. Remember, it is not how far you go, but how deeply you integrate the actions of the pose as you create evenness and balance.

Move your thighbones back toward your hamstrings. Even out the weight betweenyour feet. Wiggle your waist long as you relax the neck and head. Notice your breath: Has your exhalation gotten longer? If so, that's a sign you're relaxing into the pose. If not, try to consciously lengthen your exhalations.

Hold the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Then release the clasp ofyour hands and place them on the ground underneath the shoulders. Walk your feet closer together, take your hands to your hips, and press the buttocks flesh down asyou stand up. Find your center in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).

MALASANA (GarlandPose)

If you look closely at the bent leg in Mari-( chyasana I, you will see that it's in a squat. Warmingup with Malasana will teach you how to deeply fold your legs as you open your calf muscles and hip joints. It is also a great release for the back muscles, so when it's time for Marichyasana I, you'll find it easier to root your tailbone and round your back. Finally, Malasana will help you turn inward and begin the journey toward silence and meditation.

Place your feet together and squat. If your heels come off the ground, place a folded blanket under them. Allow your knees to move away from each other just enough to let your torso drop through. Let your torso, neck, and head round forward. Ifpossible, bring the crown ofyour head and your tailbone an equal distance from the ground. Reaching down through your inner heels, deepen your groins and hug your legs into your torso. Walk your armpits down your shins and internally rotate your upper arms, bringing your hands behindyou, palms up. Asyou move deeper into the pose, remember that there is no need to use force. If you can approach the pose without aggression, you will imprint a pattern that prepares you for Marichyasana I.

Notice how the deep folding ofyour body helps to accentuate the completion ofyour exhalation. Breathe here for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out of Malasana, place your hands on the ground underneath the shoulders, press your feet

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