Prasarita Padottanasana

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(Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Now the fun really begins! Unwrap your arms. Lean forward slightly and place your hands on the floor in front of you, shifting your weight onto your feet. Begin to walk your hands to the left, lift your hips off the floor, and swivel around on your feet. Keep going until you've unwound your legs and—ta da!— you're standing on your two legs in a wide-straddle forward bend.

The previous pose broadened the back and combined the letting-go quality of Child's Pose with the active arm and leg work of Vasisthasana.Try to keep all those elements alive as you begin to organize Prasarita Padottanasana.

Take a look at your legs, ankles, and feet. Touch each inner heel and nudge it downward. Then draw a line up your inner legs all the way to the groins, just the way you did with your inner wrists and armpits. Tuck your thumbs into your outer hip creases once again, making space in the front of your hips. Now, unfurl your spine like a party favor, bringing it parallel to the floor. Place your fingertips on the floor or on yoga blocks.

Inhale and bend your knees slightly, reaching your pubic bone back between your thighs. This will create a minibackbend feeling. As you exhale, straighten your legs, inviting the tailbone to drop toward the pubic bone. Repeat this several times. As you inhale, reach your pubic is this the bone up toward the tailbone, and as you exhale, scoop the tailbone a bit toward the pubic bone. This conversation between the tail and pubis creates strength and awareness in the pelvic floor.

On your next exhalation, fold all the way forward over your legs. Your forearms and upper arms will be at a 90-degree angle — much like a Chaturanga Dandasana arm. Let your head dangle, and if it doesn't touch the ground, place a yoga block under it. Your spine will round slightly here, but lift your shoulder blades away from the floor so that your neck is soft and long. Even though your legs are wide apart, activate the zipper feeling in your inner legs and notice how that might allow your forward bend to deepen.

Stay in the forward bend for several breaths. Place imaginary nostrils wherever you feel the need for more energy or less tension. Prasarita Padottanasana is a very active standing pose and, at the same time, a major release. In certain cultures a bow this low indicates tremendous respect, a total letting go of ego. Can you find a way to let go of what you don't need without collapsing? Can you open to what you do need without grasping?

Now repeat the whole sequence, making sure that you switch sides for Vasisthasana and the Gomukhasana variation. Bring your feet together and come down to the floor for Child's Pose. Note with interest how the sequence feels different the second time.

TITTIBHASANA (Firefly Pose)

After you've done Prasarita the second time, bend your knees just slightly and heel-toe your feet closer together. When your feet are shoulder-width apart, bend your knees more. Dip your right shoulder under your right knee and take a couple of breaths here. Undip, coming back to your bent-kneed forward bend. Dip the left shoulder under the left knee and breathe here a few times. Undip. Come down into a squatting position for a moment, and rest. If dipping the shoulders felt stressful, then place two yoga blocks directly behind your feet.

Come back to the bent-kneed forward bend. Make sure that your feet are no wider than shoulder-distance apart. Dip your right shoulder behind your right knee and place your right hand on the floor below your right shoulder. Do the same on the other side. If you can't place your palms flat onto the floor, put them on the blocks.

Your arms will be bent in this position, similar to how they were in Prasarita Padottanasana. Snuggle them under your thighs as far as you can, working your legs up your arms toward your shoulders. During this process, your back will naturally begin to round the same way it did in Child's Pose.

Now you are ready to put weight on your arms. Remember the work of the inner arms: Reach down with the inner wrists and lift up in the inner armpits. Even though your back is curved, your collarbones are still broad, and your head is up. Look out in front ofyou. Take in the world and breathe.

Begin to shift your hips back in space so that you start to sit on your upper arms. At this point, your pelvis might feel massively heavy, and you may be thinking there is definitely no way you are going to lift your legs off the floor or balance on your arms. Let that thought go; come back to your immediate experience.

The heavy feeling in this position is partly due to the tucking under of the tailbone. In order to achieve liftoff, you need to rebalance the pelvis by shooting the pubic bone back between the thighs. Don't even try to lift your legs yet. Just repeat the pelvic tilting and tucking action, the conversation between pubic bone and tailbone that you imprinted in Prasarita Padottanasana.

At a certain point—maybe today, maybe next year—you'll find the pubic bone reaching back in that mini-backbending action, and your sitting bones will tilt skyward. This will naturally lighten the load, and your pelvis will start to go up. To keep it up, use your legs. Work the oppositional relationship of inner ankles reaching away and groins drawing up and in to the body. Lift your head. See what's going on in front of you — how amazing kripalu.org stockbridge, ma 800.741.7353

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