Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Pose of the Month: Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold June 26, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:59 pm
Tags: , ,

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold 1

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold 2

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold 3

Pose Name:

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold

Sanskrit Name:

Prasarita Padottanasana


  1. Begin in mountain pose (tadasana). Step your right foot back into a wide-legged stance. Your feet should be approximately 3-4 ft. apart – about the length of one of your legs.
  2. Point both feet towards the side wall and face the wall. The feet can be parallel or slightly pigeon-toed, but should not angle outwards.
  3. Placing hands on hips, come into a slight backbend, extending the front line of the body. Then keep your front torso long while bending forward from the hips.
  4. As your torso begins to come parallel to the floor, drop your hands to the floor right below your shoulders. Begin to walk your fingertips back  between your feet. If you have the flexibility, walk your hands back until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms parallel. Be sure to keep the arms parallel and don’t let your elbows wing out to the sides. If it’s comfortable, rest the top of your head on the floor.
  5. For an alternate stretch, you can grab the big toes with the first two fingers and thumb of each hand; wrap hands around ankles; or clasp hands behind your back and lift the arms up.
  6. Press your weight into the whole foot: don’t let the weight rest in the outside edges of the feet but press through the inner foot, and keep your weight balanced between ball and heel. Breathe deeply, continuing to extend and bend deeper, keeping the back flat and the front of the body long.
  7. Bring your hands back to center, right under your shoulders. Slowly walk your feet in until they’re hip-width apart. Bend the knees, clasp your hands around opposite elbows, and relax, shaking your head to release tension in your neck.
  8. Slowly roll up to standing, one vertebrae at a time, keeping knees bent. Your head should be the last thing to come up. Close your eyes and breathe here for a moment before returning to your practice.


Prasarita increases strength in legs and feet and stretches inner legs and the backs of the knees. Forward folds are beneficial for digestion and the internal organs, and can help to calm the mind. The pose can also be helpful for mild backaches and headaches.


Students with lower back problems or knee problems should take care and work very gently with this pose. Pregnant students should be careful in any forward bend. Those with balance problems may want to practice at the wall and should come up slowly; those with low blood pressure should move very slowly into and out of the pose to avoid getting dizzy.

My Experience with Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold:

Prasarita has always been difficult for me – I find it painful on my outer calves and outer ankles, and also on the backs of my knees. Because of this discomfort, I don’t usually practice prasarita at home, so I decided to challenge myself by choosing this pose to work on this month.

I was surprised to find another source of discomfort in this pose that I hadn’t known about: I realized that the pose makes me uncomfortable because my head is so close to the floor. I know that many yogis come into headstand from this posture, and I don’t yet have the confidence to do headstand away from the wall. I think prasarita makes me uncomfortable for this reason, because it brings me close to a pose that makes me nervous.

Practicing prasarita this month more intensively hasn’t caused any great changes in my experience of the pose – I still feel pain in my legs, and I still feel uncomfortable in the pose. However, I think I have a better understanding of my feelings now and can work more mindfully on the pose in the future.


11 Responses to “Pose of the Month: Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold”

  1. This is one of my favorite poses and I do it often! I can’t reach my head to the ground and usually stop with my palms on the floor and my elbows bent. I feel a great stretch in this pose and the pose leaves me feeling energized.

    It’s interesting how different our bodies are and how these differences reveal themselves in yoga poses. I can stretch deeply and comfortably into poses such as the Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold and have difficulty stretching into Wide-Legged Seated Forward Bend. Do you have any thoughts about the difference between these two poses?

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      That’s an interesting comparison. I would guess that, in the standing version of the pose, gravity helps you to bend more. Gravity helps in the seated pose too as you bend forward, but it acts in a different way since you’re differently oriented while seated.

      For me, I can stretch much more deeply in the seated version, because it doesn’t put the same pressure on my ankles or legs. You have to do some balancing in the standing version, while in the seated version the legs are well-supported by the floor, so it changes the work on the muscles.

      I’m going to pay attention to this in my next practice and see if I come up with any new ideas. Thanks!

      • I also have intense pain in my ankle and outer calves in this pose. A burning. Normally by the time we get to this pose in a class, we have already done a lot of standing poses, and I find it hard to focus on lifting the knees and engaging the upper legs in Prasarita, which i think is what might help the pain/burning. I find it frustrating because my ankles are obviously so weak, and I can’t enjoy the pose. Getting my head to the floor and my chest low, even with feet wide, is not really a problem, except for the intense outer ankle pain. I will keep on trying.

      • R. H. Ward Says:

        I wish I knew what to tell you here, but I have yet to figure it out myself! One thing I’ve found is that shifting where my weight rests on the foot can affect the discomfort – the discomfort is more intense if I let my weight roll to the outside edges of my feet, whereas if I press the inside of my foot down and try to distribute my weight evenly throughout the foot, it seems to help. Maybe it’s just the action of actively pressing through the foot rather than passively letting the weight rest where it falls? Either way, it’s something to try. Best of luck with your practice!

  2. This pose is really tough for the new guys like me 🙂

  3. […] Supported Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana): Another great hip opener! Bend forward over a couch, chair, or table for some extra support. Practicing this posture can help with many basic tasks, like shaving your legs or buckling your shoes. (I thank yoga for my ongoing ability to do these mostly unassisted!) […]

  4. […] wide-legged standing forward fold […]

  5. […] wide-legged standing forward fold […]

  6. […] wide-legged standing forward fold […]

  7. CJ Says:

    Why is it so important not to let your feet turn out in this pose? I hear all the time to keep feet parallel or pigeon toed but I’d like to know why?

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      Thanks for your question! I’m not seeing any reason specified in a quick search online, so I’ll give it my best guess. I think it has to do with stability in the pose – many sources talk about grounding down through all four corners of the feet and balancing the weight over the whole foot (rather than over the ball or the heel). I think this is easier to do with the feet parallel. I know I personally feel less stable in the pose with feet turned out. In addition, there may be something to do with preventing knee injury. I think turning the feet out would change the action all the way up through the knee and hip, and that may not be a good thing. I’m not an anatomy expert by any stretch, but those would be my guesses. Best of luck in your practice of this pose!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your 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