The Nuanced Vinyasas of Prasarita Padottanasana
Finding the Joy in Prasarita Padottanasana
Situated in the Ashtanga Yoga standing series, nestled after the Surya Namaskara and the first foundational postures of the Ashtanga Yoga series, the four postures of the Prasarita Padottanasana sequence have a very simple message: “Good morning!”
Every daily Ashtanga yoga practitioner is familiar with the hard practice days. The days where morning seems to come especially early, the body and the brain don’t seem to be speaking, and the mind wanders to everything besides the task at hand. On those difficult days, the initial movements of the yoga series can feel like wrestling the mind onto the mat, using linked movement and breath to fight for focus. The oscillating movements of the Surya Namaskara offer the first tool, drawing the mind into the dance of the vinyasas. The simple postures that open the standing sequence offer another opportunity, gently coaxing the body into practice. By the time Prasarita Padottanasana comes around, even on the hardest days, some consciousness of breath and body has been achieved. Now all that is needed to help weather the frustrations is a sense of joy.
Parasite Padottanasan is linked by a nuanced vinyasa sequence
The four “wide-legged forward folds” of the Prasarita Padottanasana sequence offer the opportunity for just that. This seemingly simple series of postures is linked by a nuanced Ashtanga yoga vinyasa sequence that, with practice, carries the concentrated practitioner on its waves. There is a rhythmic quality to it that can help shift the perspective of even the hardest yoga practice day. Beginning with a wide step or jump to the right, hands on the hips, the yoga practitioner points both toes towards one wall, feet parallel to each other. Exhaling, they bring the hands to floor, directly under the shoulders. Inhaling to look up, lengthening the spine, they then exhale to fold down completely, holding for five breaths. An inhale brings the head up, there is a held beat at the exhale, and then an inhale returns the practitioner to the beginning, hands on the hips.
Prasarita Padottanasan A – D
With that, Prasarita Padottanasana A is finished, but that is only the first stage of the dance. Inhaling to bring the arms straight out, the yoga practitioner exhales them back to the waist in preparation for the second variation. After a conscious inhale, they fold down on an exhale, keeping the hands on the waist and holding for five breaths. Inhaling to return to the starting position, exhaling to ground here, they prepare for the next variation in the same way – inhaling the arms out. This time, however, they interlace the hands behind the back before exhaling down for the hold. The fourth variation follows the same pattern as the first, skipping the outward extension of the arms in favor of the rhythmic, breath-linked lengthening and folding of the spine, this time catching the big toes rather than placing the hands on the floor.
Prasarita Padottanasan helps you pay attention
All of these ins and outs have a couple major side effects. First of all, if you weren’t concentrated on your way into this Ashtanga yoga sequence, you will be on the way out. Somewhere along the line, a missed vinyasa will leave your breath and movement out of sync, drawing you swiftly back to attention. The nuanced logic of the vinyasas offers an experience of body-breath connection that can serve as a glorious reminder of the more “feel good” reasons for practice, the addictive parts that keep us going through the uncomfortable work of daily tapas. The breath awareness granted by the vinyasas and the preceding postures in that Ashtanga yoga series keys the practitioner into the ways the breath and bandhas work together, helping them find concentration-granting subtleties as they deepen the held sections of the sequence. Not least of all, these gentle inversions bring the head below the heart, sending a rush of blood to the brain that is better than any cup of coffee. “Good morning” indeed.
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Lear more about the Primary Series from previous articles:
Photos taken in Ostional Nicaragua.