Stiff yoga guide: Prasarita Padottanasana

Slowly and not so surely we are getting near the end of the fundamental or basic poses in this stiff yoga modification series.

This time, the four Prasaritas. And you can be assured there are plenty of adjustments made.

As always, the quick reminder: I’m on a month-long return to basics approach to Ashtanga, with a focus on trying to emphasize both the stretches in the pose and the correct alignment, rather than moving more fully into the poses. I’ll just focus on what I’m doing that isn’t 100% copacetic.

(I’ve written in the past about the four Prasaritas and getting adjusted in all four in a row. Fun times.)


Now, on with the show:

This is a pose where a straight back during all those forward folds is central to what I’m doing. As I learned on Sunday, the one day a week Bobbie and I practice together, I’m still likely “cheating” on poses by rounding the upper back, leaning the head forward and making myself think I’m only three feet away from my knees/things/toes instead of four.

I also try to be extra careful that my legs are straight and that my feet are turned just a little inward; pigeon-toed, I guess, would be another way to describe it. (You can see that in the photo.)

On the more positive side, this is a pose where I find both Uddiyana and Mula Bandha are pretty accessible, so it may be a good pose to use if you’re trying to help someone (stiff) explore the mysteries that are the bandhas.

In A, the main modification, since I don’t have my head on the floor like in the picture to the left, is to make certain my fingers are facing forward (as in the photo) to help encourage proper shoulder alignment. I know some teachers encourage use of a block (or blocks, and here I add a heavy sigh) to get the feeling of pressing through the head. It’s not one of my favorite modifications. The B modification is much the same; probably the “new” thing I’ve been doing during the past month is focusing more on the grabbing of the waist before/during the return movement up. I guess I cheat a little, inch those hands down toward the hips, which makes coming up easier. (And we know Ashtanga shouldn’t be easy.)

For C, you may be able to guess, the arms aren’t terribly near the floor. So it is just about trying to loosen the shoulders up, as I can. The key phrase here: Don’t cross the streams. In this case, though, I’m probably not going to risk total protonic reversal. But keeping my thumbs next to each other, uncrossed, as the rest of my fingers interlace, does seem to give just a smidge more space for the shoulders to move. Also, as I fold forward, I use my arms along my back as a reminder to keep that back straight. Once I’m as far forward as I’m likely to go, then I “release” the arms and let them try to reach farther ahead.

In D, forget about the toes. I’m reaching to my mid-shins (which seems to be the usual spot I’m getting to), and I’m trying to keep a loosen grip so I’m not tensing up and fighting myself. (There’s enough of that already.)

Mostly 10 breaths in all these, too.

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “Stiff yoga guide: Prasarita Padottanasana”

  1. Why not show a picture of an actual stiff person doing this pose? I think that would be more effective for readers. They see head on the floor and that’s what they think they need to be doing.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s