STANDING STRADDLE SPLIT – PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA
There are some asanas you always love, from the first time you perform them. Those poses perfectly fit your body, they are perfectly tailored to it and capable of making you feel surprisingly comfortable and safe.
Standing Straddle Split, or Prasarita Padottasana, which in Sanskrit means expanded, extended (Prasarita) foot (Pada), for me is one of them. Of course, I can improve my level of bendiness, but still, it makes me feel so good!
There are four variations for Prasarita Padottanasana: A, B, C and D. We are going to see all of them.
I hope you will enjoy them with me!!
Stand in Mountain Pose facing one of the long edges of your mat. Step or hop you feet wide apart, let’s say up to 5 feet (1,5 meters). Some teachers suggest the same width as your arms extension in T shape. Take your inner feet parallel to each other, engage your thighs and draw your knee-caps up.
Place your hands at your waist for versions A, B and D. Inhale to prepare and extend your torso up looking upwards, without arching your back nor splaying your ribs out. Your back at this point can be slightly concave.
On the exhale, bend forward until your torso is parallel to the floor. Your back is still concave, if possible.
Here’s the point in which the differences between variations stand out.
In all four cases, while completing your forward fold, pay attention: you should avoid pulling your sitting bones up and to the side too much, which would overstress your hamstrings. Instead, leave them neutral and pull the pubic bone back to help you bend at your hip joints. Engage your legs, pulling your inner thighs inwards towards each other.
- When your torso is perpendicular to the floor, place your hands on the floor between your feet, with your arms straightened. Inhale looking up, keeping your back’s concavity. On the exhale, bend your torso further, so that your elbows form a 90°angle, forearms perpendicular and arms parallel to the ground. You can place your head on the floor if you can.
- Keep your hands at your waist and look up as you inhale. On the exhale, relax your torso and bend forward until the crown of your head gets to touch the floor.
- When your forward bend is halfway, switch your arms’ position, so to grab your big toes with you index and middle fingers. Inhale extending your arms and looking up. On the exhale, complete your fold until the crown of your head possibly touches the mat. Attention: as you are holding your toes, you’ll be tempted to pull your torso down. Try to avoid this. Instead, relax your shoulders and neck, focusing on pulling the pelvic floor up and lifting your sacrum at the same time.
- I left version C as the last one because it differs from the other since the beginning. Instead of placing your hands at the waist, lift them to the side to a T shape and then take them behind your back, interlacing your fingers. Inhale looking and lifting your chest up to prepare. On the exhale, fold forward completely.
Here, you’ll have the temptation of squeezing your shoulders, which is harmful as you are naturally going to favor your best side. So just relax your shoulders while lengthening your torso and pulling the sacrum up at the same time. Hold the pose for five complete breathe cycles. Then you can bend your arms and take your hands at the sacrum to let your shoulders rotate forward, from external to internal rotation. Extend now your arms again, keeping your fingers interlaced and wrists flattered out.
In all the variations, when you reach the peak, remember to draw your shoulders blades towards each other and toward your lower back. Hold Prasarita Padottanasana A,B, C or D for 5 complete breathe cycles. Come up again on the inhale, placing your hands at the waist during the second half of your unfold. Exhale and step back to Tadasana.
Of course, not everyone is able to fold completely, placing the head on the floor.
I suggest beginners to stop at the first half of their forward bend, maybe placing their hands on the floor below shoulders level or between their feet to sustain the torso.
It is also possible to place hands on a block each to begin.
BENEFITS AND SYMBOLIC MEANING
I love Standing Straddle Split because it challenges both strength and flexibility. You will increase the strength of your legs – calves and thighs – and get more stable hips and spine while lengthening hamstrings and torso a lot!!
Inverting our usual posture and pressing the torso towards the joints is beneficial to improve the functioning of internal organs and help digestion. At the same time, this posture acts on the nervous system, relaxing and soothing it. In fact, Standing Straddle Split has proved to be beneficial against anxiety stress and depression.
The inversion of the torso and contact of the head’s crown to earth helps relieving back shoulders and neck on a physical level, the mind on the emotional and physical one. Hence, it is a remedy for headaches, but also to pause for a while the rumination and overthinking that do not let us enjoy our present!